Advice » In the Workplace» Workplace Issues » Automation Reshapes Opportuniti ...
Automation Reshapes Opportunities for Med Techs

Automation Reshapes Opportunities for Med Techs

Robotics and automation are helping to fill in the gaps in medical laboratories created by a shortage of medical technologists (MTs). Automated laboratory systems pick up the grunt work that once made workdays dull for MTs. And executives at diagnostic labs are using robotics to help control costs.

Automation Ameliorates Shortage

Staffing shortages are a major challenge for labs.

"We've been able to cope with the shortage, because we've automated or robotized some of what we do in the lab," says Elissa Passiment, executive vice president of the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science. "But this has done nothing to lessen the need; it has just helped us avoid closing labs."

But some observers say hospitals and other employers of medical technologists are responsible for their own staffing woes. "The shortage of med techs is caused by poor pay and bad working conditions," says John Kershaw, chief operating officer of Sysmex America, a laboratory diagnostic systems maker in Mundelein, Illinois.

In any case, no one foresees a healthcare industry without med techs.

"We don't really see that we're going to be able to reduce manpower, but we can reduce preanalytical errors with automation," says John Sherer, compliance officer for CompuNet Clinical Laboratories in Dayton.

A More Analytical Role

Experts believe automation is turning lab workers into knowledge workers.

"We like to think it's enhancing careers by taking away mundane tasks and allowing technical personnel to concentrate on more important things," says Sherer, who also chairs the American Medical Technologists' federal/government affairs committee. In hematology, for example, "automation allows techs to screen particular cells instead of looking at every cell," he says.

Often, as machines take over one function in the laboratory, medical innovation creates new challenges for human workers.

"As automation takes over routine lab tasks, med techs move into another area where they need special knowledge that hasn't yet been automated," Kershaw says. "Preanalytic jobs such as transcription and sample sorting may cease to exist." But MTs who want the opportunity can readily move to a more analytical function in the lab.

Penetration Varies

Automation is not distributed evenly over all diagnostic labs in the country. Labs in small, rural hospitals and in physicians' offices have the least automation and the highest MT vacancy rates; big-city medical centers and blood centers have the most automation and less severe staff shortages.

In blood centers, "infectious disease testing and serologic testing has all been automated," says Dr. James AuBuchon, chairman of the clinical transfusion medicine committee at the AABB (formerly the American Association of Blood Banks). "I don't anticipate big future changes, because all the automation that could be brought in has been brought in."

Learning the Systems

Automation might change the training requirements for medical technologists.

To cut costs and reduce errors, "there's an increasing push for simplification and standardization such that less and less training is needed" for lab workers in blood centers, AuBuchon says. "On the other hand, we will still need medical technologists and technicians, and they will need to be increasingly computer literate."

But given the pace and breadth of technological change, med techs end up getting much of their education on the job. "There are so many different lab automation systems," Sherer says. "It would be difficult to give MTs training for all of them."

And the learning curve will continue to be steep. "In the next five to 15 years, there's going to be an explosion of new tests," Passiment says. "We won't be able to keep up with the demand for medical technologists, even with automation."

Latest Jobs

Accounting Principals
Posted: 05/30/2015
Fort Lauderdale, FL, 33309
Ajilon Professional Staffing
Posted: 05/30/2015
Houston, TX, 77027
Ajilon Professional Staffing
Posted: 05/30/2015
San Francisco, CA, 94105
Ajilon Professional Staffing
Posted: 05/30/2015
Houston, TX, 77027
Accounting Principals
Posted: 05/30/2015
Sylmar, CA, 91342

Want more personalized results?  Update Your Profile


Monster Communities

Teaching Community
Where teachers meet and learn.
Create and connect.
Networking for the career-minded woman.
Nursing Link
Where nurses call the shots.
More Monster Communities

Monster Partners

Scholarships, financial aid and more ways to pay for school.
Find top campus and online degree programs.
Military portal for the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
Financial Aid
Scholarships & financial aid.
Staffing for Government Jobs
Staffing and hiring solutions for federal government agency jobs.
More Monster Partners

Job Hunt Strategy

Six Ways to Make a Recruiter Hate You
If you want to blow your chances with recruiters -- and, by extension, with the companies they work for -- here are six perfect ways to do so.

Resumes & Cover Letters

Rev Up Your Resume to Relocate
Hoping to relocate? Get the ball rolling on landing the right job in the right location with these expert resume and cover letter tips.


100 Potential Interview Questions
Interview questions can run the gamut. You probably won't face all 100 of these, but you should still be prepared to answer at least some of them.

Salary & Benefits

10 Questions to Ask When Negotiating Salary
Most of us aren't natural negotiators, but asking these 10 questions during salary negotiations can help you get everything you deserve.

Employee Sourcing

Alt text
November Monster Employment Index Grows 13% Year-Over-Year, Tenth Consecutive Month of Positive Annual Growth.

For Seekers

Campus and Online Degrees
Advance your career and earn more with an online degree.
Free Salary Wizard
What are you worth? Find out and negotiate a better salary.
Research Careers
Get information on jobs and career paths to help guide your choices
Questions & Answers
Find answers to all your career related questions -- powered by Yahoo! Answers
Resume Distribution Service
Our distribution service puts your resume right in the hands of recruiters.
Resume Writing Services
Our experts will craft a keyword-rich resume that stands out in the crowd.
More Career Resources

For Employers

Career Ad Network
Target your job posting to more candidates on thousands of websites.
Hire Right Background Checks
Explore our background check packages to improve the quality of your hires.
Hiring Home Page
Find the best candidates for your business with Monster hiring solutions.
Job Postings
Find the right solution for your hiring needs. Starting at $99.
Power Resume Search
Monster's new search technology precisely matches people with your jobs.
Resource Center
Find staffing insights, labor trends, HR best practices and more.
Target Post
Connect with skilled, hourly and administrative candidates for only $99.

Social Media

Jobs on Twitter
Find jobs in your area and industry.
Monster Careers
Tune into our career advice and discussions tackling a wide range of topics and industries.
Monster Corporate & PR
Stay up-to-date on the latest news. Get the 'Who', 'What', 'When', and 'Why' on all things Monster related.
Monster Customer Service
Got a Monster question? We've got the answer. Whether you're a job seeker or employer, we can help you find the answers you need.
Monster for Employers
Find advice on hiring.
Follow Us
Check out our many pages and stay connected with the latest industry news, events, career advice and job openings.

Other Links

Monster Company Profiles
Explore companies and get information to guide your career decisions.
Compare Salaries
See how your pay stacks up to others in your field.
iPhone Application
Download the Monster app for iPhone and iPod touch.
Monster Job Seeker Blog
Monster Job Seeker Blog.
Monster Thinking Blog
Monster's Recruitment Trends Blog.
Jobs & Career Resources
Search Jobs:
For Employers: Post Jobs | Search Resumes | Advertise
About Monster | Work for Monster | Advertise with Us | AdChoices | Partner with Us | Investor Relations | Social Media
Terms of Use | Privacy Center | Accessibility Center | Help | Security | Contact Us | Sitemap | Mobile
©2015 Monster - All Rights Reserved U.S. Patents No. 5,832,497; 7,599,930 B1; 7,827,125 and 7,836,060 MWW - Looking for Monster Cable? - V: 2015.8.0.34-302