The magic in fairy tales*

Aug. 1, 2003
The 20-something generation came out of the womb using a keyboard, and learned early that several lucrative short-term jobs were more essential to financial success than a long-term career that absorbs ones mind and stimulates ones passion. Can we persuade these young people that job satisfaction is as important as a salary? Savvy youth check the numbers before choosing a career path.Now add to the workforce-shortage mix and that 20-something mindset the aging American population. Bureau of the Census projections cite an increase in the general population of Florida at 29% by 2020, with the over-65 crowd at 66%. Healthcare needs for the aging require a fresh crop of medical pros to provide adequate services forget about the overall
quality that will ultimately be affected.
Lack of interest has closed many training programs. Increased salaries have not impacted the status of the shortage. Colleges report difficulty finding faculty to teach healthcare courses. Limited capacities at colleges means applicants with 3.8 GPAs are being turned away. The Michigan Society for Clinical Laboratory Sciences reported 40 factors that contribute to our failure to retain employees or to draw young folk into our ranks.Top off that scary monster with the bioterrorism threat, which puts all healthcare workers at the front line of the fight against exotic, dangerous, possibly deadly, toxins. No amount of persuasion, short of substantial aid for education, as well as competitive salaries and an improved professional standing for lab workers, can convince our young job seekers to bypass the safety of an IT career and march into the lab to confront the bioterror enemy.Can we play St. George to this lab shortage dragon? Knights in shining armor scheming to slay it include U.S. Representatives John Shimkus (R-IL) and Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL), who initiated the Medical Laboratory Personnel Shortage Act of 2003 to address the shortfall. The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Act identified major concerns, offering remedies like those proposed in Shimkus and Jacksons legislation. A fairy godmother, the Partnership for Public Service, recently released Homeland Insecurity: Building the Expertise to Defend from
Bioterrorism (, outlining needed incentives to draw federal candidates for genetics, infectious disease medicine, epidemiology, microbiology, bacteriology, the physics of aerosol attacks and emergency procedures.
Balancing the list of contributing factors that continue to drain the lab personnel ranks with the list of possible solutions may mean one day we write a happily-ever-after ending. Despite practical elements, reinvigorating passion for the profession seems to be a necessity also. A medical technician at a recent industry show was voluntarily hosting a booth. Let me give you a card from my real job, she said. I do this, she gestured toward the online lab training material displayed, because I love my profession.Her words made me believe she saw the magic in fairy tales, and that she was ready to face the
Carren Bersch
[email protected]*Danielle Steele quoted in the
Christian Science Monitor, March 21, 1985: If you see the magic in a fairy tale, you can face the future. See
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