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Do Older Techs Hate Change?

Published August 6, 2014 6:05 AM by Scott Warner

If there’s anything a lifetime of change teaches us, it’s that change never matches the hype. At some point in your career you’ve heard and seen it all: staffing ideas, alphabet soup, meeting gimmicks, efficiency notions. Like hornets, buzzwords are best left undisturbed, because after a while we’re allergic to their sting.

Or are we?

According to an article in Scientific American, openness to new experiences peaks during one’s 20s and declines thereafter (it increases in some people after age 60, so relax -- there’s hope). Since this implies less resistance to change, it seems to reinforce the stereotype (especially at computer keyboards) of old dogs and new tricks.

Much of this resistance is toward computers and information technology. Millennials (if you have any in your lab) likely use smart phones, smart watches, and Google as a verb. Your older techs may have a flip phone that they rarely use, have a wind-up Timex that has worked for thirty years, and read books. They won’t or can’t change. So I hear.

But according to a 2010 study, age is negatively related to resistance to change. Author and research scientist Jennifer Deal argues that generation related stereotypes are wrong; everyone hates change. Resistance to change has to do with what a person has to gain or lose. The stereotype may be self-fulfilling; one article on Medscape points out that younger nurses view older nurses as both resistant to change and using more sick time. Neither is true.

What all this suggests to me is that younger workers have less to lose by adapting ideas that are new (to them). It’s one way to compete in a workplace where experience (and age) teaches connections between ideas and data, too. But I’ve always found people agreeable to change when it means less work, fewer errors, or better patient care. The trick is finding change that really does that, and older techs are often skeptical or cynical, depending on your perspective.

So, do older techs hate change? What do you think?

NEXT: Explaining Ourselves


I began working in the clinical laboratory in 1971. The winds of change have blown through our field continually in the years that I have spent as a medical technologist. I believe there will always be some individuals who welcome change and some who resist change independent of their age or experience. In the clinical laboratory we must all learn to welcome change and participate in that change to the best of our ability because change will come regardless of whether we welcome it or not. I started in the laboratory utilizing tubes and spectrophotometers for a great deal of routine chemistry testing and now stand at instrument platforms with testing throughputs of hundreds of tests per hour. I have loved the ride (though I do still have a flip phone) and know that the only true constant is change. I am an older tech and I embrace the changes we face in the future of health care knowing my focus remains on the patients that we care for.

Cheryl O'Brien, Core laboratory - Supervisor, Baystate Medical Center August 16, 2014 8:35 AM
Springfield MA

I am 25 yrs old, a "Millennial", and I believe that some changes are good, some not. "Change" is a vague term, but even new technologies and "updates" are often problematic.  The key to implementing a "change" in the workplace is #1: Communication, and #2 Thorough planning, invloving all persons who will be impacted by the change (think about the entire healthcare team).  Also, it is helpful to include several different employees with a variety of backgrounds to cover all possible "set-backs" involved with the change.  A diversity of input in the planning process could often prevent issues once a new change is implemented. But yes, I welcome change a new technologies/ methods, however I still believe that over-automation of result verification in a hospital lab could be detrimental.  

Stephanie, Generalist - MLS August 15, 2014 12:56 PM
Baltimore MD

I agree with your statement that most resistance or acceptance to change involves "what's in it for me" or what a person values (heart).

I am an experienced (older) technologist and as you can see by my title my job is all about change. People will accept change if they can see the value. It is important to listen to see if you can figure out what are the fears and plan for them or at least acknowledge them, before you start to change.

Sharon Genest, Anatomic Pathology - Quality Improvement Supervisor, SaskatoonHealth Region August 15, 2014 10:32 AM

With 32 years of service in the medical laboratory I have seen many changes and many things come full circle.  I have seen changes that have been good, productive, and worthwhile. I have seen changes that have been absolutely disasterous.  One of the worst things you can do is change a process and refuse to go back when the change you've made simply isn't working.  

I'm all for change if you can prove there is a benefit.

Eileen Smith, Hematopathology - MT Sr, VCUHS August 15, 2014 8:54 AM
Richmond VA

I will turn 72 this month and have been working steadly since 1971.  I LOVED this article and all the posted comments.  I have often wondered if there were still anybody working as old as I am and am glad to know there are!  All I can add is this - if you are young and planning a career in the healthcare field and absolutely don't like change, rethink your choice.  Any area of Healthcare is in a constant state of flux as the technologies are advancing at "warp speed".  (Yes, I am a trekie and have been since show 1.)  Thanks for the article and thanks to all the commentators for the comments!

Carol Heard, Chemistry - Supervisor, Glenwood Regional Medical Center August 15, 2014 7:43 AM
West Monroe LA

Great points! I've almost always found "resistance" to be useful information once investigated. The more experience, the better the information. Resistance arises from not involving those doing the work (over and over and over....) and who is it who needs to change, anyway?

Scott Warner August 15, 2014 6:14 AM

I'm 61 and have worked in labs roughly forever -- I welcome change that helps and resist change for changes sake. I think how an individual regards change has more to do with their personality than their age. I work with much younger techs that are much more resistent than I am.

Lucy Knapp, Chemistry - Technical Specialist, PHL August 14, 2014 7:27 PM
Vancouver WA

Having been a tech for 42 years, from back in the days of manual chemistry and hematology tests, I welcome change. Sometimes those recent grads are unaware of how far Lab Medicine has come. The advent of LIS to post results to an EMR, instruments that read bar codes and know what needs to be done, some are autovalidated, who would have known. I think the rub is that the Millennial age tech 'just wants to implement something' and does not seem as methodical, as in years back, to thoroughly understand all that needs addressing and why. Overall, this is the reason that many older techs stay in the field, new technologies, and a 'if you do not use it, you will lose it' mentality.

Martina Christie, MT (HEW) MLS (ASCP), POC - Laboratory Compliance Coordinator, Brody Medical School August 14, 2014 5:35 PM
Greenville NC

I've been a med tech for 24 years.  Anything that helps me to turn out patient results more efficiently and accurately is a welcome change.  The problem arises when someone in the "ivory tower" decides that a change is necessary.  Unless you are in the front lines, actually doing the work, you're probably not aware of what changes should be made.  Listen to the employees ideas of what they would like in order to perform their jobs more effectively.  If you value their feedback and act on it, I guarantee a positive response to changes.

Chris Kraus, MT(ASCP) August 13, 2014 2:17 PM
Milwaukee WI

I'm 56 years old and have been working in clincal laboratories at 800 bed hospitals, small community hospitals, and commercial laboratories since 1980.   I can honestly say that change is one thing that keeps me interested, and I'm also not afraid to ask for help from the "milennials" working with me if I don't understand a computer issue.  I learn from them and they learn from me. I like change.  What I don't like is labelling and judging people based on age - or any other attribute.

Susan, Serology/Immunology - Technical Specialist, Albany Medical Center August 13, 2014 12:24 PM
Albany NY

I used to be resistant to change at the ripe old age of 47. But there is actually a learning curve where new methods will take longer. But if it is a change that is intended to improve efficiency or decrease the amount of time, once that learning curve is past, then efficiency improves exponentially! Time is cut in half! I remember a procedure that my two "young" assistants wanted to implement. I resisted until we actually did the change. OMG! Did I really like doing the same task in triplicate when I only needed it done once?

Kierstin Reynolds-Beavers, education - interim program director, Graduate School USA August 12, 2014 4:27 PM
Washington DC

In 1964 it took us two hours to do a protein-free filtrate blood glucose and we were doing pregnancy tests on leapord frogs, yet.......... only 5 years later (1969), we landed men on the moon!!!  Technology has advanced exponentially ever since.  There will always be new challenges, but do we want to go back?

Frank Knezek, Hospital Lab - Lab Manager, Sweeny Community Hospital August 12, 2014 11:55 AM
Sweeny TX

Hello Scott,

I am 61 years old and I totally agree with William Plaster.  I have spent my career amazed at the changes in laboratory medical technology.  The instruments that have enabled medical technologists to provide a faster and more reliable result to physicians is phenomenal!  As to computer technology, with each new system I have used-it has been a joy not to handwrite (yes!) lab results and post them in patient charts.  Stereotyping anyone for their sex, religion,age or color is a personal bias, not a statistical one.  Anyone with math comprehension knows that numbers can provide proof for any bias.

p.s.  "Google it" is one of my favorite    expressions!


Hi William - well said!  Thank you for commenting.

Scott Warner August 11, 2014 6:15 AM

I am 76 years old and retired from the laboratory in 1998, I always embraced and welcomed new technology. I struggled for many years with cumbersome, dangerous, and questionable manual proedures and never had any wish to return to that era.

William Plaster, MT(HEW) MLT ASCP August 9, 2014 9:00 PM
Summerville SC

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About this Blog

    Scott Warner, MLT(ASCP)
    Occupation: Laboratory Manager
    Setting: Critical Access Hospital
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