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Which way is up?

Which way is up?

Retaining employees will be a major focus of hospital executives in 1991, according to a recent poll of 250 hospital CEOs.(1) Hospitals that fail to treat employees well will soon find the quality of care eroding as the labor pool shrinks.

Of those surveyed, most (89%) are developing training programs to counteract declining skill levels. Such programs may include consolidating departments, simplifying work assignments, and placing health care professionals in nontraditional roles. These changes call for rethinking the organizational structure at all levels.

Laboratory managers can take advantage of the new order by developing a dual career ladder that will recognize employees who choose not to go into management as well as those who do. In the traditional growth pattern, laboratorians begin at entry level and advance to senior technologist/scientist, then to supervisor, and finally to lab manager/director.

The consolidation of departments will provide fewer supervisory positions and thus fewer opportunities for advancement. This structure detracts from job satisfaction, leading to demotivation and ultimately to career changes. Unfortunately, those most likely to become frustrated and leave the profession are high achievers--the ones you least want to lose.

* Stop the trend. To move out of the traditional mode, open your mind to new possibilities. Recognize skills and competencies that you might be taking for granted now. Develop new titles and job descriptions.

In most labs, it shouldn't be difficult to establish a dual career ladder. The project entails introducing new job titles and reassigning duties. You can give those who prefer not to move into management an opportunity to grow by splitting the traditional supervisory slot into technical specialist/coordinator and supervisor/manager. Such a division delineates responsibilities, giving two people equal stature. Appropriate salary reclassifications should accompany title changes.

Application of the dual career ladder varies with the size of the lab. Since supervisory titles in the laboratory do not always meet the generally accepted definition of a supervisor, hospital administrators should welcome this realistic approach to reorganizing the laboratory.

The resulting positions might be described as follows:

*Technical specialist possesses a high level of knowledge and skills in a specific area of clinical or anatomic pathology. A large lab may have more than one specialist in chemistry, hematology, or microbiology. Specialists spend 80% of their time at the bench and 20% on duties such as QC and ordering. They also serve as technical resources for their sections.

*Technical coordinator is an experienced generalist who serves the staff as a technical resource, organizes workflow, and trouble-shoots for specific shifts.

*Department-specific coordinator organizes the workflow of a support area, such as phlebotomy or the lab office.

The three positions described above earn pay higher than that of a traditional senior technologist and comparable with that of a traditional technical supervisor.

*Supervisor/manager has administrative responsibility for one or more lab sections and oversees 20 to 30 employees. The title should be consistent with titles for comparable positions in the institution. Personnel duties raise the salary slightly above that of the specialist/coordinator.

In small labs, supervisor/managers may also be technical specialists of one section, spending about half their time at the bench and the rest performing administrative duties. In larger clinical laboratories, they would spend 90% of their time on administrative duties and 10% on various technical tasks, not necessarily bench work.

* Varied routes. There are almost as many ways to apply the dual career ladder concept as there are laboratories. Factors include lab size, qualifications of current staff members, employees' needs and interests, and productivity concerns. The greatest obstacle is employees' unwillingness to discard outmoded practices. Make it happen now! (1)Johnsson, J. Employees key to hospitals' future survival. Hospitals 64(20): 82, Oct. 20, 1990.

Annamarie Barros, M.A., CLS(NCA)CLDir, Contributing Editor The author is a management consultant and educator; director of Health Management Analysts, Woodland, Calif.; and laboratory operations adviser, Ernst & Young, Great Lakes Region, Cleveland.
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Title Annotation:dual career ladder
Author:Barros, Annamarie
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Article Type:column
Date:Apr 1, 1991
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