Categorized | Marquette, News

Lab Sciences works to end labor shortage

Posted on 02 November 2007 by Katelyn Ferral

Marquette students searching for a great science degree often overlook Clinical Laboratory Science, which might possibly explain its size as one of Marquette’s smallest majors. According to the College of Health Sciences, there is a “critical shortage” of CLS professionals in the field. However, despite this shortage, Marquette, as evidenced by the huge engineering and law school initiatives, does not seem to be interested in curbing this deficiency.

CLS students are not just at work in the lab to earn a money-making degree, but are performing millions of tests they will someday use to answer the question,

“What disease can this be causing?” At only about half its capacity, Marquette’s CLS program is striving to decrease the shortage in the Clinical Laboratory Sciences industry and step up recruitment, according to CLS department chair, Linda Milson.

“I think the university does a good job in recruitment for all majors,” said Milson. “But I think alerting more faculty advisors and the student population that the major exists would be successful in recruitment.”

Because of the serious industry shortage, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services aims to train 138,000 new laboratory scientists by 2012. However, according to Clinical Laboratory Science associate professor, Dr. Linda Laatsch, this is proving to be a difficult task.

“We’re nowhere near where we need to be by 2012,” said Laatsch.

The important role Clinical Laboratory Sciences (CLS) plays in the medical profession, points to the necessity for more recruitment by the university. Although the CLS department currently runs a young scholar program for students to come in and work in labs, earning college credit over three Saturdays in the summer and the major is also a part of the university open houses, students feel Marquette could do more.

“I believe that it is my responsibility to help promote the field,” said Caitlin Knapp, a Clinical Laboratory Sciences sophomore.

“When I reply to the question, ‘what is your major?’ I just receive blank stares. If we are trying to promote this field, then I believe that more students on campus should understand the field even if they don’t want to be a part of it,” said Knapp.

According to College of Health Sciences Dean, William Cullinan, Marquette is in the process of pushing recruitment initiatives and plans to intensify high school recruiting efforts, revamp the Web site and “create an electronic newsletter from the college that can reach our alums and friends,” said Cullinan.

The College of Health Sciences a p p r o x i m a t e s that, “between 70 and 80 percent of all diagnostic information used by physicians comes from labs.”

Because these CLS professionals often work behind the scenes, a lack of awareness and knowledge is a big factor in the industry shortage.

“Clinical lab scientists perform critical functions, and I think the profession suffers a bit by lack of exposure because much of this takes place behind the scenes,” Cullinan said.

According to the Abbot Diagnostics “Labs Are Vital” Website initiative, clinical laboratory scientists, “analyze bodily fluids and tissues to identify anemia, infections, toxic substances in the blood stream, cardiac and cancer markers and strains of infectious diseases.”

The Web site also breaks down the shortage, as for every two new scientists entering the field, there are seven facing retirement. And although, according to Milson, Marquette is one of five Wisconsin universities that offer Clinical Laboratory Science, with Marquette’s upcoming capital c a m p a i g n , Marquette will continue to have the edge.

C u l l i n a n said raising the university’s overall e n d o w m e n t through the capital campaign would bring in students to Marquette’s program.

“It will benefit the CLS program by making us more competitive as a university,” said Cullinan. “The program is already incredibly strong, with outstanding faculty, an excellent job placement history and board exam passing rates that are nearly perfect.” Along with a close to 100% CLS certification exam, hands-on lab activity and the seven-month clinical option for seniors with a virtual job guarantee are also features that draw students to Marquette’s program.

“I first wanted to study a hard science, but I was disappointed that most programs do not include the fun lab techniques until the senior year. [At Marquette] I can actively participate in diagnostic medicine and learn practical lab skills,” said Clinical Lab Sciences sophomore Jenny Simenauer. “The shortage motivates me in some way, because I know I will have a job after graduation, but I am more interested in the medical skills it offers.”

Although many CLS graduates choose to go on to Medical School, there are several career opportunities. According to the College of Health Science, CLS grads can go into healthcare administration, dentistry, health radiation science, optometry, pharmacy and veterinary medicine.

“It is an exciting field, and as importantly, a noble profession,” said Cullinan.

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