Why License Tour Guides but not Laboratorians?
recent article in the Economist made
me chuckle. It covers in a deliberately humorous way, the story that tour
guides in Washington, DC must be licensed, or face stiff fines.
idea is that a certain body of knowledge is needed and the public can be
fleeced or shortchanged if everyone and their uncle start offering tours of the
city to gullible, fee-paying tourists. If
you think about it, tour guides probably need to be trained, there might even
be a good reason for some standardization of facts. But how detrimental could it be if a guide
does not seek the extra training required and pay the government a fee to be
reality is that many careers (which cannot even realistically be called
professions) are required to be licensed. Generally, licensure is required to
protect the public in some way. For many professions it is important that there
be a demonstrated minimum level of knowledge and that service is delivered according
to guidelines. Why doesn’t medical laboratory lab science fall into such an
you think of a situation in which an untrained-or undertrained- individual could
provide incorrect results that could affect patient care? What about providing
blood and blood products? Why does the government not have a vested interest in protecting the public health un such areas?
Economist article continues, “In the 1950s only one
American worker in 20 needed a permit from the government; today that figure is
around one in three. Some jobs, such as doctors, clearly need strict controls.
But some states require licenses for florists and interior designers.”
They could have added barbers, masseuses,
cosmetologists, realtors, electricians, nail technicians and a host of others.
In fact, I could go on and on with that list. What is ironic is that medical laboratory
science is missing from the long list. There are still, in 2014, only a small handful of states
(and US possessions) that license laboratorians.
The distraction often used by opponents of personnel licensure is that of the constantly increasing cost of running government. I
have suggested in the past, and still believe, that states can minimize the administrative
costs of licensure by using reciprocity (as nurses, attorneys and many other professions
do). If you have a “clean” license in one state you will be accepted by another
state without too many hassles. Instead of developing and controlling their own
exams, states can accept recent national certification in lieu of a state exam,
except in those very unusual areas where the state requires some narrow body of
knowledge. Once a data base is set up, a clerk reporting to a volunteer Board of Licensure can monitor licensure as just a part of his/her job. Cost can be minimal.
education can be mandated, including issues that relate to state law or
healthcare issues that the state feels are especially important.
of us wants to pay any more fees than we have to. But what if for a nominal sum
you would be licensed, ensuring job protection from unqualified competitors and
protecting the public health at the same time? I fear that the protest against
paying a small licensure fee has made the fight for licensure more difficult
and has unwittingly increased competition for jobs and artificially depressed
wages. If an employer can legally take all comers, that diminishes the value of
certified professionals. Sometimes we really can be our own worst enemies.
it really more important to license the guy who points out the Washington monument
to a group of tourists than it is to license those individuals who use critical thinking and
independent judgment to provide over 70 percent of information used to make