Are new CLS practitioners prepared to stay?Clin Lab Sci 2007; 20(3):161-71CL
This study assessed the relationship between the educational preparation and career expectations of CLS students and their subsequent retention in the laboratory profession.
Survey participants were given a list of 32 tasks that may be expected of early career professionals. Participants were asked to rate their educational preparation for and how frequently they performed each task in their current job using a four point Lickert scale. Additional questions addressed the participants' preparation for their current jobs, career satisfaction, plans for staying in the profession, and factors that influence retention.
The survey sample consisted of 972 Clinical Laboratory Scientists who passed the National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel (NCA) CLS examination between June 2002 and June 2004.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES
The mean rating for the level of preparation and the frequency of use for each of the 32 competencies was calculated. The mean ratings were used to assess the educational preparation in each competency and identify areas in which the level of preparation did not match the need for that skill in current practice. Using analysis of variance, respondents' answers to questions on their number of years of experience, their plans to stay in the profession, and their job satisfaction were compared based on their perceived level of preparation and the degree to which they felt their current jobs matched their career expectations at graduation.
The response rate was 31%. Most of the respondents felt that they were well prepared for the responsibilities of their current laboratory position. There was a good match between the respondents' ratings of their preparation in each competency and the frequency with which they were required to perform that competency. Phlebotomy and flow cytometry appeared to have more preparation than respondents felt they needed. Troubleshooting, resolving problems, and performing multiple tasks were identified as areas in which more preparation was needed. The mean number of years that respondents planned to stay in the profession was 15.5 years and the factors that were most important in keeping them in the profession included interesting work, good salaries, and advancement opportunities. The respondents who rated the match between their career-entry expectations and their current job the highest were more satisfied and planned to stay in the profession the longest.
Early career laboratory professionals felt well prepared for their jobs, though teaching of some tasks could be improved to better prepare graduates for the work environment. Most respondents indicated that they were prepared to stay in the profession for at least ten years; however they indicated that interesting work, good salaries, and opportunities to advance in the profession would be important in their decision to stay. A good match between laboratory employees' career expectations at the time of graduation and their work environment appears to improve their satisfaction with their careers and their desire to stay in the profession.