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Minority recruitment: an untapped resource for the MT shortage.

If the short-staffed lab field is to succeed in attracting more minority students, it must aggressively pursue them and furnish role models in key positions.

Medical technology faces its most significant challenge of the past 20 years. Struggling against a shortage of personnel, many concerned with the profession are plotting strategies to attract more students to laboratory careers. Yet they may overlook a sizable number of prospects.

Minorities have made employment gains in clinical laboratories but mostly on the lower rungs of the job ladder. They are underrepresented at the professional levels of the lab field and health care in general.

We will demonstrate that point with statistics on hospital employees. As a context for the data that follow, keep this breakdown in mind: The U.S. Census Bureau estimated in 1986 that whites constituted 76.9 per cent of the population; blacks, 12.1 per cent; Hispanics, 7.9 per cent; and other groups , 3.1 per cent (including Indian or Alaskan native Americans, and individuals of Asian or Pacific origin).

According to a 1987 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission summary, the hospital field consisted of 2.65 million workers. Of hospital officials and managers, 89.3 per cent were white, 6.2 per cent were black, 2.2 per cent were Spanish-surnamed Americans, 2.0 per cent were Asian, and 0.3 per cent were American Indian.

In the professional category (defined as occupations requiring college degrees or a comparable background-M.D., Ph.D., B.S., etc.), 87.9 per cent were white, 5.1 per cent were black, 4.9 percent were Asian, 1.9 were of Spanish descent, and 0.2 per cent were American Indian.

In the technician category (occupations requiring basic scientific knowledge and manual skill obtained in two years of post-highschool education), 79.2 per cent were white, 13.6 per cent were black, 3.9 per cent were of Spanish descent, 3.0 per cent were Asian, and 0.3 per cent were American Indian.

Whites dominated lesser jobs as well, but they were joined by higher proportions of blacks and Hispanics. Among service workers (nurses' aides, orderlies, janitors, guards, guides, and cooks, to name a few), 58.9 per cent were white, 30.7 per cent were black, 7.7 were Hispanic, 2.3 per cent were Asian, and 0.4 per cent were Indian.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates laboratories have made progress in minority hiring. In 1983, only 10.5 per cent of the 255,000 clinical laboratory technologists and technicians were black, and 2.9 per cent were Hispanic. By 1988, the work force had expanded to 272,000 technologists and technicians; now 14.2 per cent were black (a slightIy higher proportion than blacks in the general population), and 4.5 per cent were Hispanic. If these figures are accurate, we believe that much of the gain has concentrated at the technician level.

There is plenty of room for improvement. We in management must make our laboratories an inviting workplace for minority members. Both planning and training can help promote understanding and a positive attitude toward various cultures and points of view. Fostering an open-minded attitude is the key in efforts to build productivity.

The road to success for minority students seeking a career in health care will not be easy, because all students, regardless of race or sex, must compete in an evolving field of medicine that keeps consolidating job titles and positions, a trend expected to continue well into the 1990s.

For their part, current and future managers must be trained to manage a diverse work force. They must focus on the skills still needed among members of minorities. Staff development programs emphasizing skill-building and depth of knowledge will help employees meet the challenges of today's transitional clinical laboratories.

Approaches to satisfying affirmative action laws-which prohibit any job hiring discrimination on the basis of race, creed, or gender-are also changing. Affirmative action advocates agree that raw statistics don't always paint a true picture of the work force. The advocates' focus has shifted from insuring that quotas are met in a field to the question of underrepresentation in specific types of jobs.

Recruiting, hiring, and promoting on the basis of proved skills and confidence are becoming much more important than counting the percentages of different minority groups in the workplace.

A major concern is whether minorities are being promoted to positions of authority-do they have a shot at the "front office"? Robert Hill, vice president of program development at Syracuse University, commented: "Black professionals are saying, 'Wait a minute. We're not just talking about having a job. We're talking about running the company.' "

Another issue is whether minorities are hired into full-time positions. Individuals who fill temporary jobs often have little long-term job security or hope of advancement.

Mere compliance with affirmative action laws does not equal the commitment to education and recruitment that would make the workplace more attractive to and supportive of minorities. This commitment is vital to correcting pasts ills.

What are the barriers to medical technology careers for minorities? The following list is not all-inclusive, but it will shed some light on what needs to be changed.

* Lack of role models. Few minority role models exist in higher positions in the laboratory, such as chief technologist, lab administrator, lab manager, and pathologist. "It's one of those chicken and egg situations," according to Glenda Price, Ph.D.,CLS(NCA), dean of the school of allied health at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, who is also a black medical technologist. "You can't get them to work toward those positions because there are no role models, but there are no role models because you can't get them."

*Socioeconomic conditions. Many capable and potentially brilliant students simply do not have adequate financial resources. For example, black college enrollment is down because of rising tuitions and drastic cuts in financial aid .

* Failure to reach communities. Many academic medical technology programs have failed to infiltrate minority communities and high schools to provide necessary information about careers in our field. Therefore, medical technology is not a visible profession like medicine or nursing. Most minority members who are capable of succeeding in a medical career enter the more visible professions.

* Stereotyping and racism. Stereotypes of minorities and outand-out racism still hinder the progress of minorities in some pockets of this country. Minorities are told what they cannot do instead of what they can do both in the academic and work environments. Unless racism and stereotyping are eradicated, they will have long-term effects on minority members' self-esteem and motivation.

* Lack of commitment to hiring. Some health care institutions lack the firm commitment and the aggressiveness needed to recruit minorities.

* Lack of equal access. Unfortunately, minorities in some regions still are denied equal access to the same resources as their white counterparts. These resources include loans, scholarships, and college acceptance.

*Denial of promotions. Some employers pass over eligible minority members as possible candidates for promotion to managerial positions and instead fill these slots from the outside.

Those are the problems. Here are a few immediate solutions:

*Laboratory management should encourage minority members to act as role models and help their fellow minority medical technology students attain personal goals.

"While minorities themselves have some responsibility for stepping forward as role models, I think the only way this is going to happen is if the majority community assumes some responsibility, and says, 'We need to make this happen,"' Glenda Price said. The majority community must also provide the kind of mentoring, the encouragement, education, and opportunities that are necessary, she added.

*Minority members already in the profession can become networking specialists. Some minority networks for medical technologists are already in place. The American Society for Medical Technology has a Minority Forum, a group of black and other minority technologists who have created their own network and communication system. The Minority Forum gathers formally at the ASMT annual meeting, but participants are in touch throughout the year.

The National Society of Allied Health, an organization of minority allied health educators and practitioners, offers networking services to its members. "We try to keep our members abreast of things that would be of interest to minorities, but also things of 'interest to them as allied health professionals," said society president Algeania Freeman, Ph.D., who is also dean of the School of Public and Allied Health at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City. "We facilitate the search for job opportunities. Often, we will call members and ask them to consider a job opening, and then we'll send a letter of support to help them get the job."

The society also is beginning to collaborate on research and grantwriting projects with members. "We're also seeing more allied health professionals participate in professional research together. One professor at one institution may want to join another in pursuing a research project," Dr. Freeman said.

*Medical technology programs can take advantage of the Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP) administered by the Division of Disadvantaged Assistance in the Department of Health and Human Services. HCOP helps educational institutions fund special programs to recruit those in minority and other disadvantaged populations for careers in the health professions.

HCOP grants are available to programs that offer two or more of these five elements: 1) recruitment activities; 2) preprofessional training to bring students up to the same educational level as others entering the health sciences; 3) facilitating admission by increasing students' performances on entry tests, their knowledge of the application process, etc.; 4) retention activities once students are enrolled, like tutorials and counseling; and 5) providing financial aid information to students so they can stay in the program until graduation. Eighteen of the 156 programs awarded HCOP grants in 1988 were in allied health education. The 18 programs shared $2.2 million in grant money.

*Institutional loans also would greatly benefit potentially gifted students who cannot afford medical technology education.

*Educational programs and laboratories need to clearly target ethnic populations for training and for jobs. An effective way to do this is to advertise in local newspapers and journals or magazines published by ethnic groups.

*We must also enlighten other community networks about the profession of medical technology. Churches, for example, are a source of medical information for some ethnic populations.

"The black church is a way to get inforrnation to the black community rapidly," Algeania Freeman said "Some of these churches already have extended health care programs set up for hypertension testing and cholesterol screening to help promote wellness in the community. The church could also be an effective vehicle for informing minorities about the allied health professions."

*More information must be made available at the high school level in the form of booklets, videotapes, slide shows, and other audiovisuals and teaching aids. Early encouragement of junior and senior high school students is an essential part of community outreach.

Dr. Price recommended developing links between high schools and health profession schools. This would give students ongoing encouragement, information about health careers, and some experience in a health arena, she said.

The allied health sciences division of Howard University, a historically black university in Washington, D.C., is in the process of reaching junior and senior high school students with "recrustment days." Leslie Jackson, chairman of Howard's department of medical technology, said her department will work through the division of allied health sciences to interest students in the profession. She said graduates of the MT program "have no problem getting jobs-if I had twice as many graduating, I could place them."

*Many potential minority students for medical technology programs already work in hospitalsnonprofessionals with health care jobs, Dr. Price said. They include ward clerks on hospital floors, other clerical employees, and dietary and housekeeping workers.

Through cooperative ventures between hospitals and academic insititutions, nonprofessional health care workers can begin educational programs designed to raise them to professional ranks, Dr. Price said. "I think we frequently assume that just because people are working in those positions, they don't desire a higher position. In institutions where they have developed such programs for employees, there has been a tremendous rate of success."

*Creative and cooperative arrangements among universities also exist. Dr. Freeman gave the example of students from health science programs at Florida A&M in Tallahassee and East Tennessee State University who go to Howard University to pursueadvanced allied health education. (Like Howard, the other two schools are historically black institutions.)

*We need to make salaries more attractive and competitive. We also need to develop achievable career ladders within the laboratory, with promotions to management levels.

*We need to dispel all fear of AIDS in laboratory work.

Finally, we need to demonstrate, by example, our love of medical technology. In order to make a convincing case for the profession, we must give a hard sell to the reasons we originally entered medical technology.

If we reexamine our own motives, generally we will remember we wanted a career in sciencespecifically, laboratory work with blood and other vital fluids, chemicals, test tubes, and sophisticated instrumentation. We wished to discover the "hows" an "whys" of human anatomy, its functions, dysfunctions, diseases, and the art of diagnosis. We wanted to be a part of the health care team and share the camaraderie of colleagues who also enjoy providing health care services.

Medical technologists all speak the language of medical science, "So ethnic groups should not think of this profession as having a language barrier," said Thomas A. Blumenfeld, M.D., associate professor of clinical pathology at Columbia University and vice president for medical affairs at The Presbyterian Hospital in the City of New York, ColumbiaPresbyterian Medical Center.

Dr. Blumenfeld said his hospital extends its hand to everybody wishing to work there, a staff that includes Blacks, Filipinos, Indians, Hispanics, and Orientals. In light of the technologist shortage, Blumenfeld said, "We should do everything we can to interest all groups. Any group now could be considered untapped, and there shouldn't be any group that we don't appeal to."

Columbia University has set a good general example of how an institution can increase minorities' access to educational resources. The university has instituted and financed several programs for minorities:

Senior high school students with good academic records have been flown to New York City to visit the Columbia campus. Guidance counselors from these schools accompanied the students.

Up to eight minority-group undergraduates are designated "Kluge scholars," named for the benefactor whose funding enriches their regular financial aid package to include more grant money and less help in the form of jobs or loans.

Funds are also provided to minority undergraduates so they can pursue scholarly work in the summer rather than take summer jobs.

Additional funds are available to allow minority undergraduates to work with faculty members on research during the summer of their junior year.

Minority graduate students who go on to earn Ph.D.s will have their undergraduate loan debts paid for in part by Columbia University. Under this program, the university pays three-quarters of the graduates' debt if they go on to earn their doctorates at Columbia, and half if they move on to another school.

Columbia University has realized the potential of a diverse student and faculty population. Surely we can do that for medical technology. We must make it happen.

Any plans to train future laboratory employees must include all members of American society. We believe that such an effort would be exciting, rewarding, and an effective way to fill medical technology positions. Your help is needed.
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Title Annotation:medical technologist
Author:Martin, Bettina G.; Woods, Karen A.; Holiday, Iris
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Date:Mar 1, 1989
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