4 July 2021 (Sunday) - The Future

I read a post on the Facebook Medical Laboratory Professionals group this morning.

Do you think your job as you know it will exist until you retire?
Well… Quite frankly as long as it sees me out, I’m all right. 

Admittedly the question was asked from an American point of view, but from the UK perspective I think it will see me out… but not for those following me.

Blood tests will still be done in the future… but what does a manager do when they advertise a job and get no applicants whatsoever? (when I was a lab manager this was a regular occurrence)

Why no applicants? Look at the trainee positions for which there were no applicants – back in the day you became a trainee from school aged seventeen and your training (up to MSc level) was paid for - it was part of your wages. Nowadays trainees take up post in their mid to late twenties (having paid for their own university education) at wages far below what their mates in other lines of work get at that age.
And look at the hours - You will be expected to be available for shifts at any time day and night. I haven’t a complete weekend off in the last month at all, I missed my daughter’s first eight birthday parties and can’t remember when I last had a complete Christmas break.

And do you want to make a career of it? Opportunities for advancement are few and far between, and the pay differential between the pay bands isn’t worth the extra hassle.

How did labs cope with no application for trainee positions? A massive growth in the unqualified lab assistant grades staffed by people with little formal training doing more and more stuff,
And look at cytology screening right now. To deal with staff shortages pretty much all of the south-east’s cytology work has recently been centralised at one huge lab site leaving people with either hundreds of miles to travel to work, or with no work. However it was rather silly to centralise where house prices are sky-high, wasn’t it?

Centralisation and de-skilling await which can only be a bad thing. Take yesterday for example. I had a phone call… a patient was on a heparin-type anticoagulant. The APTT was over the top of the range. Should the doctor increase or decrease the dose? In years to come the labs will be filled with those who don’t know the answer to that question.

Also bear in mind that if you make a mistake (and who doesn’t!) your mistake may well have the potential to kill someone. And when (not if) you make a mistake will anyone remember all the effort that you put in over the years? You may well find yourself dumped and made unemployable by managers desperate to cover their own backs.

I will also make the observation that my son drives a fork-lift truck about and he earns far more than I do. A train driver (with twelve weeks training) earns more than my supervisors get.
There are those who idealistically say they are doing it for the interest or the altruism of the job, but that soon wears off. Like all jobs it can easily get boring and repetitive. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t dislike what I do, and writing this blog goes a long way to keeping me interested, but after forty years doing blood tests I want to sell ice creams or dig graves or do *anything* which is different.

Much as I have learned a *lot* in my forty years of testing blood if I had my time again I would do something else.

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