‘Our education is stale’: Lab assistant shaken as IH drops post-secondary requirement for similar role – Kelowna News

Amid a historic labor shortage, Interior Health will no longer require post-secondary education for workers whose primary role is to draw blood from patients, prompting an outcry from skilled lab assistants .

Interior Health’s recent job postings for a “laboratory phlebotomist” position only require a 10th grade education and one year of relevant experience.

It comes with a job description – drawing blood and entering test results – which is extremely similar to the job of a lab assistant.

Lab assistants, however, require a year of post-secondary education that includes coursework in topics such as medical terminology, physical anatomy and more.

“They’re just flying by the seat of their pants,” said an upset lab assistant at Interior Health, whom Castanet provides anonymity to protect their jobs. “The main job of a lab assistant is to draw blood from people. And the main job of a phlebotomist is to draw blood from people.

In a statement to Castanet, Interior Health acknowledged that the role of “laboratory phlebotomist” is a newly coined role that will require on-the-job training.

“The program includes four weeks of full-time didactic theory supplemented by eight weeks of hands-on internship training,” Interior Health said.

“It meets all provincial accreditations and mandatory competencies for venipuncture (blood draw) collection.”

But skilled lab assistant Castanet spoke with said a year of university or college can’t be condensed into four weeks.

“On-site training is not the same as a university-run course with a high school diploma. On-the-job training is someone like me training someone who hasn’t even had a high school education to do essentially the exact same job for almost the exact same pay .

The Laboratory Phlebotomist role lists a starting salary of $24.04.

A lab assistant starts at $25.31 per hour.

Money aside, the lab assistant raised concerns about patient safety.

“You’re in an emergency, you have a trauma, you have a car accident, you’re rushed to the hospital, and all of a sudden you have this person straight out of 10th year with a needle trying to stab you and draw blood out of you,” the IH employee said.

“Would you trust your housekeeper to rush over there in an emergency trauma and gather vital information and bring it to the lab? Because that’s what they do.

Interior Health says there is an urgent need for lab staff across the country and therefore has been looking for “an innovative solution” to train phlebotomists on the job.

“After a successful initial cohort and extensive evaluation, a second intake is underway,” IH said.

The lab assistant, however, says the health authority is only lowering hiring standards rather than improving working conditions and wages.

With salaries relatively low compared to the rest of the healthcare industry and a significant amount of abuse inflicted on them during the pandemic, the lab assistant says a staff shortage is inevitable.

“They’re trying to limit the fact that nobody wants to get into health care except maybe people who, you know, don’t have enough education to do anything else. They target these people.

The lab assistant says the phlebotomist training program has not been discussed with existing staff and he fears they may have to bear the burden of training underprepared employees.

“Don’t tell us our education is outdated and pay these guys the same amount.”

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