Most medical diagnoses come with support of clinical and pathological laboratory findings. Given the vast number of patient samples and results that travel through a regular hospital laboratory each day the employees and workers are essential to the protection of patient safety. According to the National Patient Safety Foundation over 100 million Americans are affected by medical mistakes each year to a sum of nearly $200 billion each year (NPSF).
More than 800 professionals require state licensure in order to operate in their specific occupational field (ASCLS-MN). Licensure is a form of occupational regulation that when granted by a governmental agency to an individual in order to legally perform the duties of their stated occupational field (ASCLS-MN). Licensure in the field of medical laboratory is needed not only to prohibit the influx of unqualified and not well-trained staff working in the field and detracting away from the technical proficiency required to soundly provide clinical and pathological laboratory results. Mandatory state licensure will provide an extra level of assurance to the public and physicians who heavily rely on laboratory results by ensuring that the medical laboratory practitioners have met the minimum qualifications and competencies required for practice in the field.
The initiation of mandatory professional licensure in all fifty states and Washington, D.C. will provide Licensure prohibits non-qualified, or non-licensed personnel from providing services to the public. Additionally, the incorporation of mandatory licensure for medical laboratory professionals will serve many multi-dynamic purposes to include the protection of the general public health and safety, assure quality of laboratory testing, Identify, locate, and mobilize practitioners to areas in need in the event of emergency preparedness or disasters, provides data for workforce development in the field, legally define and protect scope of the medical laboratory technician and technologists practice (Panning & Hansen).
Currently twelve states in the United States require licensing for medical laboratory professionals. The first states to require licensing was California in 1937. Currently four states, Missouri, Texas, Mississippi, and Virginia are reviewing bills in the local legislative bodies to mandate the processional licensure of laboratory professionals (Panning & Hansen). According to Panning and Hansen three major beliefs are the foundation to support licensure; licensure is the cornerstone for safety and quality standards in laboratory medicine, education and certification are the basis for evaluating the competency of professionals, and licensure will prevent the profession form being “dumbed down”.
The prevalence of occupational licensing has grown from a mere 4.5 percent of the workforce being licensed at the state level in the 1950s to nearly 20.5 percent in 2000 (Kleiner & Ham). Many opposed to licensure, view that it will be hard to administer and regulate and will ultimately raise the salary for professionals in states enacting licensing standards.
However, studies show that there are no significant impacts on earnings of professionals due to the enactment of licensure in all the occupations studied. Additionally, studies have not shown there is an increase in unionism (Kleiner & Ham). Research does however, find that occupational licensing limits employment growth in a field versus those that have no state licensing requirements, partially due to the weeding out of nonqualified personnel and creating an earning premium for licensed highly sought-after licensed personnel (Kleiner & Ham).
However, with proper licensure enforcement and regulatory review, licensing of professionals can be mandated consistently and regularly across all states and territories in the U.S., without creating a monopolizing wage gain for licensed professional in any field. Laboratory professionals require extensive education and proficiency to perform laboratory procedures high in quality to ensure the safety of the general public. This is only done through the required accountability, education, and proven proficiency that is monitored and enforced through state-level occupational licensure regulations.
- American Society of Clinical Laboratory Scientists – Minnesota. “Minnesota Licensure.” American Society of Clinical Laboratory Scientists Online. 13 Feb 2013.
- Kleiner, Morris, M. & Ham, Hwikwon. H. Regulating Occupations: Does Occupational Licensing Increase Earnings and Reduce Employment Growth? 2005. Presented at the Federal Trade Commission, Washington, D.C.
- National Patient Safety Foundation. (1997, October 9). Nationwide Poll on Patient Safety 100 Million Americans See Medical Mistakes Directly Touching Them. 9 Oct. 1997.
- Panning, Rick & Hansen, Kathy. Licensure of Laboratory Professionals in Minnesota – Update. 13 Feb 2013. Presented at the MN Legislative Symposium.