All grossing pathology labs develop an internal set of productivity standards, based on a multitude of factors. Inevitably, all labs eventually miss an occasional benchmark (or two). The number of specimens grossed are subject to a diverse range of variables at any given moment, which can quickly impact lab quality, speed, and output in lab environments of any type and size. While missing lab goals and objectives does happen, it’s important for administrators and pathologists to keep an eye on output to ensure efforts are aligned and, most importantly, patient care quality is prioritized.
How Can You Support PA Output at Your Anatomic Pathology Lab?
Knowing how to equip your PAs for productivity success can help you quickly identify and resolve possible performance gaps in your facility. A few factors that may influence momentum in your anatomic pathology lab include:
Properly Staffed Facilities An adequately staffed lab can play a major role in ensuring pathologists’ assistants continue to gross specimens at a pace that maintains both speed and quality. Additionally, having the right amount of internal resources can help boost lab morale and encourage productivity. However, busy lab managers, struggling to keep up with day-to-day tasks and obligations in the facility, often don't have the bandwidth needed to recruit new pathologists' assistants when openings arise in the facility.
Budgets can also come into play when staffing gross pathology labs, requiring leadership to do more with less and resulting in an understaffed facility. Without the appropriate resources to sustain grossing pace, labs become vulnerable to lower-than-normal output.
Unexpected Work Spikes Unexpected or unusual circumstances can launch a prolonged work surge at grossing pathology labs. The recent COVID-19 pandemic is an excellent example of an unpredicted event that had an adverse effect on virtually every industry across the United States. Many anatomic pathology labs instantly reduced overall hours at the lab as they waited with the rest of the world in a holding pattern of sorts.
Now that the economic floodgates are beginning to open, labs are seeing an increase in grossing blocks as pathologists' assistants attempt to keep up with the backlog that has accumulated over the last several weeks. As a result, many may miss clinical laboratory productivity benchmarks as PAs navigate through the expected influx.
Staff Burnout Burnout is a common occurrence throughout the medical profession. Most people assume that burnout only happens to healthcare professionals who have direct patient contact. However, pathologist assistants can also suffer from workplace stresses. A 2018 AAPA article revealed that, while most surveyed PAs felt "happy at work," they still experienced varying levels of burnout.
The report revealed that, according to the Professional Fulfillment Index (PFI), PAs with experience levels that ranged from 5-9 years demonstrated the highest rates of professional exhaustion at 50.6%. When left untreated, professional burnout can have negative consequences, both on the PA as well as within the work environment. Overtime, work stress can manifest itself in fatigue, lack of enthusiasm, poor attitude, and low motivation, all of which can influence both internal corporate culture as well as productivity levels at labs.