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A survey of the working environment of medical technologists in South Africa
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Biomedical Laboratory Technologists play a fundamental role in the diagnosis of disease in patients. Their role in South Africa is currently undergoing profound changes with an emphasis placed on a four-year professional degree that will replace the National Diploma in Biomedical Technology at most Universities of Technology and Comprehensive Universities (UJ and NMU) by 2020. Training and competency programs, along with the retention of experienced staff, remain key in providing accurate laboratory results. It is therefore imperative to investigate this field in factors related to training, work experience and job satisfaction. This study aimed to evaluate the perceptions of Medical Technologists and Medical Technicians with regards to salary, interpersonal relationship, continuing professional development (CPD), work ethic and scope of practice within the profession. A mixed methods study was conducted to evaluate salary, career choice happiness and CPD compliance of Medical Technologists and Medical Technicians, as well as their perceptions around interpersonal relationships, work ethic and scope of practice. In sampling, a convenience sample was identified, after which a snowballing method was used. A link to a web-based survey was distributed to a group of Medical Technologists and Medical Technicians who attended the Society of Medical Laboratory Technology of South Africa (SMLTSA) Medical Laboratory Professionals congress. This congress was held in 2015 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. A sample of 144 Medical Technicians and Medical Technologists was obtained, of which 98.6% were registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA). Only 54.2% were active members of the Society of Medical Laboratory Technologist of South Africa. Age (r = 0.674, p < 0.05) and years worked at current employer (r = 0.533, p < 0.05) proved to have stronger relationships with salary than education (r = 0.195, p < 0.05). Those employed in the public sector earned significantly lower salaries than those in any other sector (p < 0.05), with the exception of those working in independent practice. Both Medical Technologists (44.2%) and Medical Technicians (34.4%) perceived that they did not receive the respect they deserved from Pathologists in their working relationship. In addition, 31.3% of Medical Technicians perceived that their roles were regarded as of lesser value, and that their knowledge, training and attained qualifications were not recognised by the Pathologists. Despite this, this study concluded respondents were generally happy with their career choice, as 71.9% of respondents reported. Findings of this study serve as a strong foundation for additional research on the topic of career happiness versus job satisfaction and retention of staff in medical diagnostic laboratories.