1.1 Background of the Study
The Medical Laboratory profession has its roots in clinical pathology. In fact, “the practice of modern medicine would not be possible without the professional services of medical technologists, also known as clinical laboratory scientists” Muelhlenkamp (as cited in Kirby, 2007).
In the 21st century, clinical laboratory science is a healthcare profession that encompasses areas such as hematology, clinical chemistry, microbiology, parasitology, immunohematology, toxicology, immunology, and molecular pathology. The clinical laboratory workforce is comprised of practitioners nationally recognized by their degree of education and training as well as by their level of expertise. It is the combination of education, training, and experience, which differentiates practitioners and qualifies them for employment in a particular field.
The Medical Laboratory Science workforce seems to be at an exciting crossroad of change, both in recruiting and in curriculum.The environment of healthcare has changed and so has nursing, resulting in students asking, “what is Medical Laboratory Science?”. This question creates a challenge for Medical Laboratory Science educators. In order to attract and retain bright, capable students in nursing, there must be changes in Medical Laboratory Science curricula to provide and assure accurate and definitive perceptions of Medical Laboratory Science. Factors which currently contribute to students’ perceptions of Medical Laboratory Science must be identified in order to establish and provide students with the career making skills necessary in choosing a Medical Laboratory Science career, find job satisfaction following graduation, and remain in Medical Laboratory Science as a career.
Today, the conceptualization by students of the Medical Laboratory Science profession appears uncertain, and the question asked by many students is “What is Medical Laboratory Science?” (Wieck, 2000). Historically, nurses have been predominantly females. Students’ perceptions of Medical Laboratory Science are based on visual images that are often limited to blood testing and x-ray taking instead of that of a highly skilled and well-educated Medical Laboratory professional with an important role to play in healthcare. Many students have not spent time with a Medical Laboratory professional or volunteered in a healthcare setting to acquire a background on which to establish perceptions about Medical Laboratory Science, and thus have limited their opportunities for more informed career decision-making skills.
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Many bright students are looking for advanced degrees, and are often confused regarding academic tracks for Medical Laboratory Science. These students are often discouraged by the lack of standardization in Medical Laboratory Science education, and choose alternative curricula in medicine instead of Medical Laboratory Science. Students also need to be aware of advanced degrees that prepare students to achieve advanced educational opportunities.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Hospitals and healthcare facilities in the Nigeria are facing serious shortages of medical laboratory personnel, which, if not addressed, stand to negatively impact patient care. The problem is compounded by a reduction in the numbers of academic programs and resulting decrease in the number of graduates to keep up with the increase in industry demands. This problem is not peculiar to Nigeria. For instance, in the United States Cearlock (as cited in Enrado, 2009) asserted that “only two new clinical lab professionals enter the field for every seven who retire, and the average age of the laboratory professional is over 50”.
Also, there appears to be a limited, and in some cases, negative perception that is of the Medical Laboratory profession created by a number of factors that filter down to secondary school students. Students’ perceptions about Medical Laboratory Science have been shown to be influenced by several factors including negative parental viewpoints, a lack of time spent by students in healthcare settings, absence of Medical Laboratory mentors, and unrealistic television media portrayals of Medical Laboratory practictioners.
Facing this national shortage of educational opportunities and the projected need for laboratory professionals, faculty and trained professionals found it was more critical than ever to make sure that entrants to the program succeeded, graduated, and prepared to enter the profession.
Therefore, research is needed to determine if adequate informed career decisions making skills about Medical Laboratory prior to entering the programs can improve Medical Laboratory student retention rates and career satisfaction. Given these challenges, the purpose of this study was to determine the awareness of Medical Laboratory Science as a career path among secondary students.
1.3 Research Question
- Is there any relationship between family background and the awareness of Medical Laboratory as a career among secondary school students?
- Is there any relationship between peer group pressure and the awareness of Medical Laboratory as a career among secondary school students?
- Is there any relationship between societal valued jobs and the awareness of Medical Laboratory as a career among secondary school students?
- Is there any relationship between school environment and the awareness of Medical Laboratory as a career among secondary school students?
1.4 Research Hypotheses
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1.5 Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this research work is to:
Find out if family background determines the awareness of Medical Laboratory Science as a career among secondary school students
Find out if peer group pressure determines the awareness of Medical Laboratory Science as a career among secondary school students
Find out if there is a relationship between societal valued jobs and the awareness of Medical Laboratory Science as a career among secondary school students
Find out if school environment determines the awareness of Medical Laboratory Science as a career among secondary school students
1.6 Significance of the Study
The significance of this study lies in its impact on three general areas: (a) the individual student, (b) the society, and (c) the Medical Laboratory profession. The individual student has a desire to succeed and to complete the degree program in order to be eligible to sit for the certification examination and to gain employment in the profession. The exiting of students from the program before completion means that resources have been wasted and that dreams have been thwarted.
Clearly, the shortages of personnel and the program closures have placed new demands on medical laboratory technology programs to recruit more students and to develop strategies to decrease attrition and to increase graduation rates. Therefore, the ability to accurately predict student success and to implement strategies that will enhance student learning and decrease attrition will have a positive impact on graduation rates and the availability of trained professionals in the community.
There is a definite need for empirical research that will enhance the knowledge of
educators in the health related fields of study, particularly in the field of Medical Laboratory Technology. While there is a wide body of research attempting to predict student success in nursing or medicine, little research was found in a review of the literature examining predictability of student success in Medical Laboratory Science.
Understanding students’ perceptions of nursing will help Medical Laboratory Science recruiters and educators to determine whether an Introduction to Medical Laboratory Science course would be beneficial to intending students. Academic and visible healthcare experience can provide students with more informed career decision-making skills, as well as help to formulate informed perceptions of professional Medical Laboratory Science
1.7 Delimitation of the Study
The research is needed to determine the awareness of Medical Laboratory Science as a career path among secondary students. The study focuses on the factors that influence students’ choice of career in secondary schools. It is aimed at all secondary school students in Kwara State but because of time, money and other factors, it will be limited to only four schools.
1.8 Operational Definition of Terms
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