Vol 2 No 6
June, 1998
ISSN 1097-9743
ASEPNewsletter is devoted to informative articles and news items about exercise physiology. It is a monthly magazine of news, opinions, exercise physiology professionals, and events that shape exercise physiology. While it contains views and opinions of the Editor who oversees the ASEP Internet Websites, visitors can have a voice as well. We welcome interested practitioners, researchers, and academicians to e-mail the Publisher their thoughts and ideas or to respond directly via the ASEP Public Forum
July, 1998
The Diminishing Clinical and Health 
Related Employment Opportunities in Exercise Physiology
Robert Robergs, PhD
Director: Center For Exercise and Applied Human Physioogy
The University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131 

There have been several recent developments in the clinical employment opportunities for exercise physiologists in Albuquerque that all ASEP members and other exercise physiologists need to be aware of. One of my Ph.D. students has written a description of his recent experiences when applying for a part time research position at a local hospital, and his account is very informative, and at the same time, very disturbing. In addition to this, I have news that one of the exercise testing laboratories at the Veterans Administration Hospital, operated through Pulmonology, is under pressure from the Pulmonary Function technicians to remove the Ph.D. trained exercise physiologists (from our graduate program) we have working in the facility, and have them replaced by Pulmonary Function technicians. Given the exercise-educated background of the clinicians involved in the decision making process, I do not believe this will happen. Nevertheless, it is another example of how the medical community is being forced to downsize and diversify the skills of their non-MD qualified employees. As there is still a perception within the medical community that exercise physiology is a course rather than a profession, it is clear that unless ASEP immediately begins to formalize associations with the medical community, the already established professional organizations that represent nurses, pulmonary function technicians, and physical therapists will undoubtedly smother the current opportunities that exists for exercise physiologists.

I will be recommending to Tommy Boone that ASEP needs to immediately correspond with as many medical/allied health organizations as possible, and as Vice-President I have already begun to draft appropriate letters. It is disturbing to see employment opportunities for exercise physiologists disappear when we know that we are the most qualified people for conducting clinical exercise testing and/or exercise-related research within the health care establishment.

The account of one of my Ph.D. studentís recent job experience follows.

How Employable Am I as an Exercise Physiologist?
Daryl Parker, M.S.
Doctoral Candidate
Exercise Science Center for Exercise and Applied Human Physiology
University of New Mexico Albuquerque, NM 87131 

AS A DISCIPLINE exercise physiology seems to be faring very well. It is a recognized course by most in academia, and a required course for all exercise science majors, as well as those who major in physical education, physical therapy, and athletic training. However, the profession of exercise physiology is not faring nearly as well. I was recently reminded of this as I was turned down for a job as a research coordinator at a local Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital. While I was not surprised to be turned down, as I have been turned down for jobs before, the reasoning behind this rejection was a little disturbing.

I was sure I was qualified for the position because the person I would be replacing had a Ph.D. in exercise physiology. The previous technician had interviewed me and assured me that I had more than adequate skills for the position, and all that was required was approval from the physician conducting the research. Much to my surprise I was turned down because the hospital has a new policy where only nursing personnel should be used for positions involving patient contact. This is more than a little disturbing to me because a completely non-research oriented person was going to be able to take a position that as third year doctoral student I was more qualified to handle. Further, the patient contact only required resting ECG, blood draws, and the recording of vitals, skills which I and most exercise physiologist have. Lastly, this was a research position, not a health care position, and patient contact should not even have been an issue. However, because the title and job status of an exercise physiologist are mostly unrecognized by the medical community, yet another nurse will be taking a position that would be better suited to an exercise physiologist. While I wish this is an isolated incident, sadly it is not. While completing my Masterís work in California I saw several similar incidences. First, the undergraduate students we sent to a local hospital for internship hours in cardiac rehabilitation had their responsibility of leading exercise classes removed, because they felt the cardiac rehab nurses were better qualified. Little did they know or care that the nurses were conducting outdated and contraindicated exercises. Second, another local hospital transferred their non-invasive diagnostic testing department that conducted graded exercise tests to the physical therapy department, again feeling that physical therapists were better qualified to conduct these tests. Finally, as I applied for a job conducting exercise tests in a hospital, I was told that my education (a bachelors in exercise science at the time) had little meaning. I was told that they certified their technicians in-house for exercise testing.

These are just a few examples of the cases I have seen or experienced where jobs were being taken out of our hands. While I know that most of this sound like a shot against the medical community, it isnít. I just think that everyone needs to practice what they were educated to do. Intuitively it doesnít make any sense that a nurse is better qualified to be involved with exercise than a person that has obtained a degree dedicated to the study of exercise. I just hope that something can be done before there are no employment opportunities left for exercise physiologists in the health/medical professions.