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The low image of MTs as professionals: reasons and solutions.

The low image of MTs as professionals: Reasons and solutions

Laboratory management, schools, professional societies, hospital administration, and technologists themselves--all have a role in getting MTs recognized as professionals.

A number of surveys in the last five years have asked medical technologists if they enjoy their jobs.(1-3) The answers on balance tip toward no.

Why are technologists unhappy? One big reason is a lack of respect and acceptance as professionals from health care colleagues and the public alike. There are many reasons for this neglect.

For one thing, few outside the field know what technologists do or how much education is required to do it. Even some laboratory directors and managers don't fully appreciate the intelligence and competence of their staff.

Technologists have little systematic input and control when it comes to the decision making that affects the quality of their work life. Too often, those in charge fail to use the laboratory's intellectual resources, relying instead on crisis management. Extra stress is one result, hurting performance and the image of technologists.

Then too, many technologists have never been schooled on how to put themselves across; they don't know the attributes of a respected health care professional. Among other things, they need to learn face-to-face and telephone communication skills.

Another problem is the absence of a centralized association structure in the medical technology profession. There is no visible unity.

Hospital administration can also hold medical technologists back. It does so by failing to provide financial support for continuing education and not encouraging technologists to become team players.

The following strategies can help overcome these various problems.

* Make people aware. Members of the laboratory management team must join with medical technologists to educate doctors, nurses, other health care workers, and the general public about the educational requirements and competency standards technologists are required to meet. A more descriptive title, such as clinical or medical laboratory professional, might reinforce the message.

In-services about the lab and its staff members should be a regular feature of orientation programs for all new hospital employees. These sessions might include lectures, demonstrations, and lab tours. In the long run, this will help the entire hospital pull together as a team, rather than as separate entities lacking common goals.

* Teach students professionalism. The directors and faculty of medical technology schools must teach students to develop a more professional image. When these students graduate, they will then be more quickly recognized as professionals by their friendly demeanor and such physical signs as being well dressed and groomed.

* Cultivate communication skills. Medical technologists need continuing education courses that emphasize the importance of proper communication. When speaking with other health care professionals, they must convey, in actions and in words, that their goal is to be of service in patient care.

* Achieve professional unity. Association strength leads to the independence of an occupation and ultimately professionalization.(4) Medical technology lacks such strength because of the diverse quantity and quality of its certifying agencies, which include the American Society of Clinical Pathologists, the International Society for Clinical Laboratory Technology, American Medical Technologists, and the National Certification Agency for Medical Laboratory Personnel.

The ideal solution would be to have a centralized agency that credentials all medical technologists. One encouraging note: In recent years, medical technologists have become more involved and provided increased input into professional associations and government decisions that affect patient care. *Heighten administration's awareness. Hospital administrators need to be more aware of medical technologists' abilities and interests and consider their expertise for committee appointments and activities in such areas as quality assurance, materials management, and safety. All administrators should be encouraged to recognize medical technologists as key players on the health care team.

* Garner support from laboratory management. The laboratory's middle management must identify problem areas and implement methods to reduce stress in the workplace.(5) Stress is a major cause of laboratorians' job dissatisfaction(6-8) and, if left unattended, eventually contributes to poor performance." Employees who do not like their jobs usually do them poorly, which leads to a further lack of respect from their colleagues.

Supervisors must also find ways to challenge and stimulate employees to contribute creative ideas, which will make them feel important and pave the way for assumption of greater responsibilities.(10) Promoting teamwork and a sense of "family" pride bolsters the image of medical technologists.

* Get tab directors involved. Laboratory directors must become visible in the medical technology professionalization process. They must become involved first by example, then by encouragement and granting medical technologists more opportunities in decision making.(11)

Directors can also show support by requesting and obtaining substantial funding for necessary continuing education programs. And they must insist that the medical staff treat medical technologists with dignity and respect, and vice versa. Encouraging greater cooperation between physicians and medical technologists will likewise have a positive impact on patient care.

We have reviewed some of the major reasons medical technologists are not viewed as professionals, along with selected strategies for correcting the situation. The bottom line is that medical technologists are vitally important to the delivery of quality health care. They must get involved with management and explore new ways of letting others know of their abilities and contributions.

The process must begin internally within each laboratory, extend outward to include the entire hospital, and have a final goal of reaching the health care consumer. Only then will medical technology be headed in the right direction, toward respect and professionalization.

1. Broski, D.C., Manuselis, G., and Noga, J. A comparative study of job satisfaction in medical technology. Am. J. Med. Technol. 48(3): 207, 1982.

2. Rahim, A. Demographic variables in general job satisfaction in a hospital: A multivariate study. Percept, Mot. Skills 55(3, pt. 1): 711, 1982.

3. Spencer, C.T. Job satisfaction among medical technologists: An analysis of selected job-related variables. J. Allied Health 11 (4): 282, 1982.

4. Brutvan, E.L. Intra-role conflict: A result of naive attempts toward professionalization. J. Allied Health 14(1): 3, 1985.

5. Martin, B.G. Burnout in the lab: Symptoms, stages, strategies. MLO 18(3): 27-30, March 1986.

6. Matteson, M.T., Ivanceivich, J.M. Stress and the medical technologist: 1. A general overview. Am. J. Med Technol, 48(3): 163, 1982,

7. Matteson, M.T., lvanceivich,.J M. Stress and the medical technologist: 11. Sources and coping mechanisms. Am. J. Med. Technol. 48(3): 169, 1982.

8. Rogers, D.A. Stress and job satisfaction of clinical laboratory scientists. Am. J. Med. Technol. 49(3): 183, 1983.

9. Martin, B.G. Stress in the clinical environment, in "The Phlebotomy Handbook," Becan-McBride, K., ed New York, Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1984.

10. Martin, B.G. How to be a winning manager. MLO 18(9): 69-70, September 1986.

11. Martin, B.G. Participative management: Let's turn the myth into reality. MLO 14(7): 113-114, July 1982.
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Title Annotation:medical technologists
Author:Martin, Bettina G.; Reyes, Eduardo L.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Date:Jun 1, 1988
Words:1140
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