Pay and Professionalism

From:Vinnie Della Speranza

Dear Marsha and others.

Without wishing to fan the flames further, a few more points may be of value to this discussion.

If you haven't already, take a look at a Letter to the Editor of the June 2001 issue of the Journal of Histotechnology. I think it was titled "Too Little, Too Late"

The author complains about the difficulty of the HT registsry exam and the 2005 elimination of the high school eligibility route for certification. It greatly troubles me that the views of this author may indeed be more prevalent in the discipline than any of us realize. Is it possible that this author is more concerned with his lab budget and what his staff cost his facility, perhaps for his own personal gain, than the impact on the discipline when he hires high school kids to staff his lab? 

Can anyone think of another healthcare discipline where one may practice with only a high school diploma? How can we expect remuneration at a "professional" level when colleagues complain about having to further their education in order to qualify for certification, or complain about how tough the exam is? Who among the other healthcare professions or among the public at large would respect a discipline with such short sighted views? 
While I don't disagree that compensation for histotechs has lagged behind other disciplines, if you truly subscribe to the notion that a high school diploma is all that is needed to function as a histotechnician, is there REALLY a shortage of techs out there? As long as the perception exists (perpetuated by the attitudes of some of our own collegues!) that anyone can qualify to be a histotechnician, there is no shortage.

 Tim Morken is correct. Post high school education will be required for certification in 2005. This does not prevent an employer from hiring someone with lesser credentials. They simply cannot become certified until they have completed the requisite education. Does your employer require you to be certified?

The larger question is who are we and who do we want to be when the dsicipline grows up? by this I mean, does a histotechnician just cut paraffin sections and perform H&E's? if so, then maybe a high school diploma is sufficient. Maybe we should be the International Brotherhood of Paraffin Cutters then. But if you expect more from technicians in your lab, if you are expected to undertand the methods you use well enough to be able to troubleshoot when something goes wrong, it is difficult to imagine that high school education is enough.

When you lament about where the discipline is today, and why salaries are low, and histotechs aren't appreciated, we need to look no further than the mirror to understand why the circumstances have persisted for decades. We really have no one to blame but ourselves when we , by hiring high school kids, allow others to believe that anyone, at any educational or training level, can do the work, or worse yet, when we proclaim publically that  the certification exam is just too darn difficult! 

Lastly, my earlier remarks about membership dues are based upon the fact that NSH dues increases, rare as they have been its 28 year history, have been met with an outcry and reduced membership. The last dues increase, a few years ago, went from $30 to $40, a fraction of what I pay to other organizations. I am presently working behind the scenes to help NSH develop a distance learning program. We all have computers available to us. I can think of no more effective way to help histotechs improve themselves, especially when fewer employers are willing to fund attendance at meetings. But funding such a program will be problematic. How many of you would be willing to pay an additional $10 or $15 a year to help our organization help us?


Vinnie Della Speranza
Manager for Anatomic Pathology Services
Medical University of South Carolina
165 Ashley Avenue  Suite 309
Charleston, SC 29425
Ph: 843-792-6353
fax: 843-792-8974

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