|Year : 2005 | Volume
| Issue : 3 | Page : 149-155
Professional attitudes and career choices of female medical laboratory technology students and graduates: Experience from Eastern Saudi Arabia
Layla A.M. Bashawri
College of Medicine, King Faisal University, Dammam, Saudi Arabia
|Date of Web Publication||30-Jun-2012|
Layla A.M. Bashawri
Associate Professor and Consultant Hematopathologist, King Fahd Hospital of the University, P.O. Box 2208, Al-Khobar 31952
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
| Abstract|| |
Objectives: To conduct a survey of the medical laboratory technology senior students, interns and graduates in King Faisal University to gather descriptive data on what students and graduates felt about their chosen profession and their career goals for the next five years.
Material and Methods: The study design was a survey. A questionnaire was specially designed for this purpose in order to gather information on the professional attitudes and career choices of the participants. The study period was one year, from January I, 2004 to December 31, 2004. A stratified random sample with proportional allocation was selected and a self-administered 17-item questionnaire was distributed. A 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1, strongly agree to 5 strongly disagree was created for the questions as well as two multiple-choice questions. 115 questionnaires were distributed to the available senior students, interns and graduates, 111 were returned completed. Statistical analysis was performed using the statistical package for the social sciences (SPSS) PC + Software program.
Results: Respondents indicated a high level of satisfaction with their chosen profession as indicated by the ratings on the different questions relating to the profession of MLT. Their career goals were mainly working in a hospital laboratory as medical technologists (57.7%), and continuing their postgraduate education (38.7%).
Conclusion and Recommendations: MLT students and graduates expressed satisfaction with their chosen profession as evidenced by their responses assessing professional attitudes. Their career goals were mainly working at the bench level as Medical Laboratory Technologists in a hospital laboratory and postgraduate education.
Keywords: MLT, Career choices, Professional attitudes
|How to cite this article:|
Bashawri LA. Professional attitudes and career choices of female medical laboratory technology students and graduates: Experience from Eastern Saudi Arabia. J Fam Community Med 2005;12:149-55
|How to cite this URL:|
Bashawri LA. Professional attitudes and career choices of female medical laboratory technology students and graduates: Experience from Eastern Saudi Arabia. J Fam Community Med [serial online] 2005 [cited 2021 Jan 15];12:149-55. Available from: https://www.jfcmonline.com/text.asp?2005/12/3/149/97581
| Introduction|| |
In a typical medical laboratory, a team of pathologists, technologists, technicians and assistants work together to determine the presence or absence of disease. The role of the medical laboratory technologist in medicine is always changing and it is even more true in today's world of considerable scientific and technical advances. Hence, in the years ahead, the medical community will require greater numbers of better trained medical technologists to meet these emerging challenges in health care. Innovative technology and laboratory automation require technologists with good background training; and the emerging diseases require new techniques in diagnosis and treatment. It is over a decade since the MLT program was established at King Faisal University (KFU).  Since its inception in 1989, 480 students have been enrolled in the program and 14 batches (250 graduates) have successfully graduated and are employed in the various health sectors in Saudi Arabia. There is an increasing demand for allied health professionals in the Kingdom with the increase in health demands and Saudization.  This has prompted colleges and universities to do their utmost to attract Saudi students into the training programs in this field and other allied health specialties. , While many studies in the field of MLT have focused on curriculum reform, student enrollment, the future of medical technologists, job satisfaction etc., this study focused on a different facet by assessing how senior students and graduates perceived their profession and what their career goals were.
Unlike the common baccalaureate degrees in other sciences such as Biology or Chemistry etc, medical laboratory technology (MLT) is a very focused discipline involving practical training in addition to lectures and laboratory sessions.
Although there have been reports from the United States of America  that 4% of medical laboratory technologists leave the profession each year for many reasons such as the lack of career advancement, dangers of job related infection, non- competitive salaries and job-related stress etc, ,, at the other extreme, MLT is a profession associated with a high rate of job satisfaction. , There are published reports by MLT graduates stating the pride they take in their profession and their appreciation of the critical and important role in the health care team. , This prompted this descriptive study in which information was gathered on how students and graduates of this program at King Faisal University (KFU) felt about their chosen profession and their career goals for the future.
| Methodology|| |
This study was conducted during the period January 2004 - December 2004. A self-administered 10-item questionnaire comprising multiple choice, and another question divided into nine statements regarding their professional attitudes was distributed. The latter required that respondents answer a 5-point Likert scale, ranging from 1, strongly agree to 5 strongly disagree. 115 Questionnaires were distributed to senior students, interns and graduates of the medical laboratory technology program, King Faisal University, and 111 were returned completed. Statistical analyses were performed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) PC + software program.
The study cohort survey was only females since admission to the MLT program at KFU had been restricted to females. Recently, a small number of male students were enrolled in the program, but they were not included in this study.
| Results|| |
Of the 115 questionnaires distributed to senior female MLT students and graduates, 111 were completed and returned.
Question 1 (Career Choices) presented the responses to what the participants would most likely do following graduation: 64 (57.7%) chose working in a hospital laboratory, 43 (38.7%) proceeding to postgraduate studies, 1 (0.9%) working in a private laboratory and 3 (2.7%) in other jobs including research, teaching, etc [Figure 1].
Question 2 which resembled question 1, assessed their commitment to the profession of MLT and concerned their career plans after graduation is shown in [Figure 2]. [Figure 2] demonstrates the different responses to what the graduates would be doing in the five years following graduation. Forty-one (37.3%) would work as medical laboratory technologists, 43 (39.1%) in research, laboratory supervisor 10 (9.1%), laboratory managers 7 (6.4%), in teaching 5 (4.5%), others 4 (3.6%).
About 70% of the respondents agreed that their clinical experience was a working rather than a learning experience. Sixty percent agreed that they would recommend the profession to family and friends, 22% were neutral and only 18.2% disagreed. Over half of the respondents (55%) would still choose MLT as a profession if they had to do it all over again, while 20% were neutral and 25% disagreed [Figure 3]a.
Seventy-six percent of the respondents had never considered leaving the profession because of concerns about health risks. Only 11% had thought about it while 13% had neutral responses. "My MLT program was a positive learning experience," 89% agreed to this statement, 8% were neutral and only 3% disagreed. Sixty-seven percent agreed that work as an MLT provided a sense of accomplishment, 21% were neutral and 11.6% disagreed [Figure 3]b.
Forty-seven percent agreed that there are very good opportunities for advancement for MLTs while 25% gave a neutral response and 28% disagreed. Concerning good job openings for MLTs; 42.8% disagreed, 20% had a neutral response and 37.3% agreed. Fifty-three percent agreed that MLTs had great job satisfaction, 21% were neutral and 27% disagreed [Figure 3]c.
| Discussion|| |
The aim of this study was to identify the current and future career choices of senior medical laboratory technology students, interns and graduates as well as to gather information on their professional attitudes. The results of the first question show that the majority of the respondents preferred working in a hospital laboratory (58%). In fact, most laboratory professionals chose to work at "the bench", the central workstation and testing area in a laboratory. Most of the "hands-on" technical work is performed here on a daily basis and is an important part of the profession. , While a third of them preferred to embark on postgraduate studies first (39%). It is very encouraging to learn that many students and graduates would like to improve their education. Interestingly, there was no correlation between the grade point average (GPA) and the preference for postgraduate education. The second question concerning career choices after employment was mainly to determine their commitment to the field of MLT, and to assess how they perceived their employment in the MLT profession, whether it was for short term or long term employment. The main responses to the two choices were very similar, 37.3%, stating that they would still be working as medical laboratory technologists at the bench level, and 39% preferring to work in a research laboratory. A smaller percentage were looking forward to working as laboratory supervisors and assuming managerial positions (9.1% and 6.4% respectively). These are interesting responses since it was expected that the majority of participants would have preferred to be at the supervisory or managerial levels. It may have been inappropriate to ask this question at this stage, as many of the respondents may have perceived those positions too stressful because of all the paper work involved such as preparing work schedules and making sure that laboratory work assignments are completed on time. The laboratory manager has even more responsibilities; day-to-day planning, coordination and overall supervision of all laboratory operations. Career commitment which is actually one's general attitude toward his or her profession is related to many factors such as type of job, professional advancement, opportunities, and salary etc. It is known that technologists with a high commitment like their profession and are able to cope with disappointments in the pursuit of career goals.  Thus, we may be posing these questions when they are at an early or "inexperienced level". If the question was asked three years after employment, the responses in favour of managerial and supervisory posts may have increased.
It is not surprising that a majority of 39% preferred to go into research since it is well known that laboratory technologists use their investigative skills in medical research to explore new frontiers in medicine and laboratory advances. This area appears to be very attractive and exciting for many newly-graduated MLTs especially when they envision themselves as belonging to a team that may investigate and make new discoveries relating to medicine and/or diagnostic products. None of the respondents chose to work in sales and industry which relates to the sale of laboratory equipment and supplies etc i.e., work as sales representatives for laboratory companies in the marketing and supplies department, or the research and development department of a chemical or pharmaceutical company. This response was actually expected here, as this division of MLT is usually dominated by male MLT graduates. A small percentage of graduates (4.5%) would like to pursue a career in teaching, a very important career needing many members. A smaller number (3.6%) of the students and graduates indicated that they would prefer to branch off into another field, science and/or medicine. Since MLT provides a background of theoretical and practical science that serves as a foundation to proceed to other disciplines especially medicine, this is a possible career move. There are many reports of MLT graduates proceeding to medicine and successfully becoming physicians, or pathologists, pharmacologists and dentists. , , 
The final part of the questionnaire was a series of statements designed to assess their judgment and opinions towards the MLT profession. Respondents were asked to respond to a Likert Scale; strongly disagree, disagree, neutral, agree and strongly agree that best described their opinions to each statement. The first statement related to their working experience in the program. Students of the MLT program at KFU start their clinical/practical laboratory rotations at level 3 and 4 of the program, and later a one-year internship training period. The majority, in response to the question stated that it was primarily a working experience and "hands on" training rather than a form of didactic or theoretical knowledge experience, a clear advantage in the KFU, MLT program.  Also we can see from the responses that almost all agreed that their MLT program provided a positive learning experience and that work as a medical laboratory technologist provided a sense of accomplishment. They also displayed satisfaction with their profession in that the majority would recommend it as a profession to family and friends and 54.1% would still choose MLT if they had to start all over again. The majority 76% didn't think of leaving the profession because of concerns about health hazards of the profession. Two statements relating to good opportunities for career advancement in MLT, and presence of good job opportunities for MLT graduates, had mostly neutral responses unlike the other statements. This may be due to lack of experience, knowledge, and exposure. It may have been too early for them to appreciate and assess the possibilities of job advancement and opportunities in the field of MLT. This may also apply to the last statement, relating to a high level of job satisfaction among MLT which was again left unanswered by many. Again, this may be too soon for them to determine if MLT as a profession was associated with a high level of job satisfaction. However, 53% of those who did respond, agreed that MLT was associated with a high degree of job satisfaction.
The results of this study indicated that students and graduates displayed satisfaction with their profession as evidenced by their responses on career choices immediately following graduation as well as their professional plans after employment and their responses to assess their professional attitudes. These opinions on career plans from MLT students and graduates deserve serious consideration and further research. It is important for educators to know what their students' expectations are about their chosen profession, in order to be able to advise and counsel them appropriately and assist them to achieve their goals. It would also be interesting to look into the factors influencing their interests, research activities and career paths. The challenges to the educators of allied health professionals would be to look into the factors that influence students' interests in joining an MLT program as well as their attitudes towards MLT and career plans. Educators of these programs must find methods to expand students' awareness of the diversity of skills they possess and the various job opportunities available to them to allow them to explore those potentials and their interests to give them professional satisfaction.
| Acknowledgments|| |
The author would like to thank Professor Mirghani Ahmed and Professor Harith El Harith for their revision of the manuscript, valuable comments and continuous encouragement and Dr. Ahmed Bahnassy for helping with the statistical analysis. The author would also like to extend her thanks to all respondents who took the time to complete the questionnaire and to Ms. Kathy Alvarado for her excellent secretarial assistance.
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[Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3]