Like all branches of medical sciences, laboratory medicine too is a dynamic subject with constant innovations and upgradations. India fortunately is able to get the latest technology, as all global players in the field have realized the potential of the Indian market and are keen to provide state-of-the-art technology. Most are operating from within the country and with Indians in most key positions which has made communication easier. Training is also done by Indians who themselves get trained in the parent company headquarters. Reagents and spares are easily procurable. As far as market trends are concerned, due to the high and ever increasing population, there is no dearth of customers as long as one is able to provide international standard reports. Accreditation availability has also contributed toward labs maintaining high quality standards of reporting. However, the challenge remains in getting professional and skilled manpower to operate the instruments
and make use and application of the available technology.
The unsung heroes of laboratory medicine, the technician/technologist, are no longer available in the required numbers nor has the necessary expertise or skills. One can become a technician with a 3 year diploma course in laboratory medicine soon after pre-university or even a SSLC. Most colleges do not do justice in teaching the required syllabus or practical demonstrations. Graduates and post-graduates joining the field are not exposed to the different aspects of medical laboratory.
These individuals learn all aspects of reporting on their job itself. The onus of producing skilled technologists lies with the employing laboratory. Very few labs provide the opportunities to these individuals to either further qualify themselves or be exposed to advances in the field, thereby not motivating them to grow.
There is very little scope for the laboratory technician to pursue higher studies due to lack of time and resources. Many hail from a rural background with very less exposure to the English language which is a major handicap and a tough challenge. Living in a city is financially draining and to overcome that most work extra hours in the same job or in another additional job. One may not believe it but the minimum wages fixed for a non-matriculate housekeeping staff and for a DMLT, BSc MLT, and a MSc technician is almost the same. The labs need to take the initiative to make working in a medical laboratory more attractive and with scope for professional betterment.
In spite of government initiatives like Skill India, much needs to be done in attracting youngsters to this field. In the west, the training and qualifications are of such caliber that the laboratory technician is looked at with high esteem and given their rightful place in the society and in the medical field itself. It is indeed unfortunate and sad that in India most people especially in the field have not understood the worth and the potential of the laboratory technician/technologist.
There is another aspect which is going unnoticed by the concerned authorities that suddenly enterprises have come up which provide only phlebotomy services and collaborate with labs for the testing and reporting facilities. Such service providers are luring away the technicians by offering them high and disproportionate salaries. There is a need for either the QCI or NABL to look into this new trend that has cropped up as a separate branch of laboratory medicine.
The authorities concerned need to involve reputed and dedicated players in this field to ensure that more and more youngsters join this field and are trained in technology and proper usage of the high end equipment and instrumentation available and understand that quality reporting involves much more than just programming a patient sample in an instrument and obtaining a result. Unless this acute shortage of skilled and proficient technologists is overcome, India cannot be proud of being anywhere near the top in the field of laboratory medicine.