Clinical training is a vital component of medical laboratory science education programs. Completion of a clinical placement is mandated by the Canadian Medical Association Conjoint Committee on Accreditation - the body that accredits medical laboratory training programs in Canada.
Over the past five years, provincial governments across Canada have expanded medical laboratory training programs in response to the impending shortage of medical laboratory technologists (approximately half of Canada's medical laboratory technologists will be eligible for retirement within the next 10 years). Since that time, the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS) has received anecdotal reports that clinical sites, the vast majority of which are hospitals, are finding it increasingly difficult to devote resources to educating students. This has raised concerns about a shortage of clinical placements.
Current discussions among educational institutions, government ministries, employers and the CSMLS have also highlighted a lack of information about the models of clinical education in use in medical laboratory science programs and about the costs, benefits and alternatives for clinical placements.
In response to these concerns, the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science (CSMLS) conducted a study on clinical education in accredited medical laboratory technology programs. The study was funded by Health Canada to examine the various models of clinical education across Canada. A report was presented to Health Canada and the CSMLS Board of Directors in 2004.
The report contains detailed data on medical laboratory training programs and the various models of clinical placements across Canada. It examines some of the challenges faced by education programs and clinical sites, proposes an algorithm to determine the cost of clinical education, and makes recommendations for future action. A CD copy of the report has been enclosed for your information.
The report reveals several issues, which if not addressed, will compromise the ability of educational institutions to deliver the clinical component of their programs in the future. Chief among these are:
- Inadequate funding for clinical education
- The impact of staffing shortages on clinical sites' ability to allocate resources to student training
- Lack of research on best practices in clinical education
- Lack of support and recognition for those who participate in clinical education
The CSMLS Board of Directors is studying the recommendations of the report to determine a path forward. As a first step, the report is being shared with federal and provincial governments, education programs and other stakeholders in the health care community.