Clinical lab associations nationwide are joining forces to support an initiative to raise national awareness of the role clinical lab professionals play in health care.

Eight organizations are working together through a program called Labs Are Vital, to elevate the role of lab professionals, and to recruit new laboratorians as the industry faces a severe workforce shortage. Abbott is sponsoring the program.

Participants include the Clinical Laboratory Management Association (CLMA), American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS), American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), American Medical Technologists (AMT), American Association of Bioanalysts (AAB), American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC), Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL), and American Association of Blood Banks (AABB).

Lab tests are the least invasive source of objective information used in clinical decision-making. Lab services are estimated to drive 60 to 80% of clinical decisions—from diagnosis through therapy and prognosis—while comprising less than 5% of a typical hospital budget.

Developing educational materials targeting hospital executives and other leaders in the healthcare community is part of the program, which is focusing on finding solutions for the critical and growing workforce shortage faced by the nation’s clinical labs.

Statistics compiled by the ASCP suggest there may be as many as 40,000 unfilled clinical laboratory jobs in the United States. The US Department of Labor projects approximately 13,800 medical lab professionals will be needed every year through 2012 to fill vacant positions. Fewer than 5,000 professionals are graduating from training programs each year.

The program plans a recruitment effort this fall, including a sponsored group and scholarship competition on the popular online networking site Facebook.