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What technologist shortage?

What are all these rumors I keep hearing about a technologist shortage? We don't have one where I work.

Now that I've captured your attention, please don't think I am being smug or out of touch. Of course, I am keenly aware that a serious shortage of qualified medical technologists is fast developing in various parts of the country. Laboratory managers at what I consider excellent institutions have confirmed to me that they have difficulty recruiting and retaining qualified individuals.

When I look at my own organization, however, the shortage isn't happening-yet. After listening to my colleagues at other labs, I tried to identify what differentiates my organization from theirs. These factors favoring a laboratory's recruitment and retention efforts came to mind:

* Educational affiliation. Hav

ing a medical technologist training program in our institution is a distinctive advantage. Near the end of the academic year, when it is obvious who the top students are, we try to recruit them before they start looking elsewhere.

* Physical facilities, equipment.

These so-called negative reinforcers have a subliminal effect on how satisfied the staff is with its work environment. They may not make an obvious positive difference when things are going well, but they definitely will have a detrimental effect on morale and productivity when things are not.

For example, I have never heard anyone say, "Gee, the air conditioning is working well today." But let it quit on a hot summer day and see what happens. The same is true for laboratory computer systems, analyzers, and the overall work environment.

* Location. Being in a desirable part of the country can help recruiting efforts. Emphasize the recreational and cultural aspects of your region if you advertise nationally. If you advertise locally, stress such items as convenience to transportation. If your institution is in a less than ideal location, look into providing secure parking areas, shuttles, transportation allowances, and other features.

*Fiscal solvency. Until recently, little if any attention was paid to an institution's financial soundness. Hospitals just didn't go out of business, so a trade-off for low salary was high job security. In today's world of hospital closings and mergers and resultant layoffs, the wise job seeker will ask not only for an employment application but also for an annual report.

* Benefits. Once an afterthought, fringe benefits are now becoming more important in the employment process. If your institution has an attractive fringe benefit package, emphasize it in recruitment ads and during the interview process. Try to sell the benefit program in terms of real dollars. Flexible fringe benefits that allow employees to fulfill their chosen life-styles are an especially effective recruitment tool.

*Growth opportunities. Let's not use the term "advancement opportunities." Everyone knows there are few rungs on the medical technology career ladder. To offset this, we have to create a climate in which employees can grow, if only in their present positions. By keeping the laboratory a dynamic workplace with new test development, continuing education, research projects, and so on. we can instill in employees a desire to advance their knowledge of laboratory medicine and raise their degree of job satisfaction.

*Salaries. I list salaries last for a reason. I feel monetary compensation is a variable, adjusted to offset shortcomings in the other areas I've mentioned. If you have all or most of the other things, you can merely be competitive instead of paying the highest wages in town. Conversely, if your institution is in a less-than-desirable area or if you can't offer job security, you may have to pay more to attract qualified individuals.

Will the medical technology shortage of the '90s get as bad as the critical nursing shortage of the '80s'? Probably not. Being a more technologically dependent field, we can absorb personnel shortages more readily through increased automation.

While in the end we all will feel the effects of the technologist

shortage, perhaps we can prolong the inevitable by evaluating and accentuating what our profession and institutions have. to offer.
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Title Annotation:recruiting & retaining qualified medical technologists
Author:Maratea, James M.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Article Type:column
Date:Sep 1, 1988
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