The study was undertaken to assess educators', practitioners', and managers' perceptions of the future job expectations of clinical laboratory scientists (CLSs) and their opinions on the skills that are expected of CLSs at entry-level and with experience.
Survey participants were given a list of 44 competencies related to clinical laboratory science (CLS) practice and were asked whether they would expect a graduate of a respected CLS program to perform each competency in one of three educational categories: the first year of practice, with three to five years of experience but no additional education, or with three to five years of experience plus additional education. The competencies were subclassified into one of four major management functions: laboratory operations, human resource management, financial operations, or communications/consultation. Surveys also included eight Lickert-type questions designed to assess the respondents' opinions on the future job expectations of CLS practitioners.
The sample for the survey included 280 directors of CLS educational programs, 600 managers randomly selected from the Clinical Laboratory Management Association (CLMA) membership, and 600 practitioners randomly selected from the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS) membership.
The percent of respondents selecting each educational category was tabulated and each competency was assigned to one educational category based onthe highest percent of respondents selecting that category. The means of the responses to the Lickert-type questions were calculated for all respondents and for each group of respondents (educators, managers, and practitioners).
Response rates of 58% (educators), 28% (practitioners), and 39% (managers) were obtained. Of the 44 competencies in the survey, four were expected at career-entry, 17 were expected of CLS graduates with work experience but no additional education, and 23 were expected of CLS graduates with experience plus additional education. Competencies expected in the first year of practice were primarily scientific and technical. With three to five years of practice and no additional education, the expectations for practitioners were primarily in laboratory operations and communications/consultation areas. The majority of the human resource management and financial operations competencies were expected with three to five years of practice and additional education. All participants agreed that CLS staff-level practitioners need more management and administrative skills and that, in the future, CLS practitioners will spend less time performing laboratory tests and more time solving problems. CLS managers were more positive than CLS educators in response to statements asserting that CLT practitioners and non-certified personnel will have an increased role in the laboratory in the future.
This study suggests that extensive laboratory operations and communication skills are expected of CLS graduates without any additional education beyond their CLS programs. CLS educators should adequately address those areas in the curriculum. Competence in other non-technical skills may not be expected without the benefit of post-baccalaureate education and in these areas, CLS programs can provide a foundation for future learning.