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Laboratory Staffing / Low Census Time due to COVID-19

  • 1.  Laboratory Staffing / Low Census Time due to COVID-19

    Posted 03-23-2020 10:59
    ​ASCLS Colleagues,

    How are other laboratories matching their staffing to their volumes?  Our Core Lab has seen a very large decrease in volume, due to elective procedures being cut, outpatient / ambulatory services being cancelled, and inpatient census being down.  We have begun having conversations about Low Census Time.  We are starting to do the following:

    • When someone calls in sick, we are not automatically asking someone to cover since the workload is manageable with decreased volumes.
    • If someone wishes to leave early, we will code them as Low Census Time so they can continue to accrue PTO.  They can choose to be paid (using PTO) or go unpaid.
    • As we have a better understanding of our new volumes, we may eventually rotate who must leave early due to Low Census.  (This will essentially be the "opposite" of mandatory overtime.) 
    • Float Pool colleagues can decrease their hours, if they wish to stay home during this difficult time.
    COVID-19 testing is performed in our Microbiology lab.  Are other lab sections (Core Lab, Blood Bank, etc) implementing different staffing models due to match the reduced test volumes we're seeing? 
    • Are you reducing your minimum staffing numbers?
    • Are you reducing the number of colleagues who work together, so if there's an exposure, there is potentially a "back-up team" that has not been exposed?  If so, how?  (A team and a B team?  Extending shifts?)

    We are used to being understaffed due to the shortage of lab professionals, so being "overstaffed" is an unusual feeling.

    Additionally, what options are your hospitals offering for working parents who need childcare arrangements?  Are any labs/hospitals offering their own option within the hospital, staffed by volunteers?  More daycares have closed and this will continue to be a serious challenge for working parents.

    Stay well,


    Kate Bernhardt
    ASCLS-IL President
    Manager, Core Laboratory


  • 2.  RE: Laboratory Staffing / Low Census Time due to COVID-19

    Posted 03-23-2020 18:58
    Our lab just implemented A/B teams. Half staffing, 2 days on, 2 days off. We get paid base pay for the days we would have normally worked, and if we leave early even with 1/2 staff, we get paid our base pay with no loss PTO.

    The only time we would take PTO is if we get sick and it isn’t COVID-19 related, or we take our pre-scheduled vacation.

    Kathryn Golab
    Medical Technologist
    Wisconsin Diagnostic Laboratories
    New Berlin WI
    (262) 923-0609

  • 3.  RE: Laboratory Staffing / Low Census Time due to COVID-19

    Posted 03-24-2020 05:31
    Hi Kate,
         My hospital is experiencing a drastic decrease in volumes as well.  I haven't seen any changes in our laboratory like you have described yet, but I can see them coming.

    Biz Fisher MHA-HI, MLS(ASCP)
    Vincennes, Indiana