Orlando, FL — Perhaps the most significant issue confronted and agreed to by 120 psychologists at a three-day “Supply and Demand” conference here in November was “truth-in-advertising.”
The conferees, chosen from academia, research and practice, faced a monumental charge: to deal with such diverse issues as entry into the profession, graduate training, internships and postdoctoral concerns, and career development through the life cycle.
While few of the pivotal issues received any conclusive resolution, many conferees were gratified that the conference was held and a beginning was made.
In their “truth-in-advertising” discussion, the delegates tried to ensure that “accurate information” about the different possible careers in psychology be delevoped and made available to the public and to students at all levels. “This information should include the full range of options available, and the needs that exist,” they declared. “It should be realistic in representing the salary or income levels associated with these options.”
The recommended truth in advertising policy calls on every program to provide every applicant with information covering the past five years about the size of classes, number and percentage of students placed in internship and number and percentage of students employed in the field six monthsd after graduation. It implores APA to collect and disseminate information to protect students about the profession include type of job and salaries of new graduates.
Nadine Kaslow, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Emory University, one of the conference planners, observed that “we need to have our undergraduates, graduates, interns and postdocs to be informed.” They need to know the likelihood of getting into graduate school, whether they will be able to find internships, what the job market will look like, she declared, adding: “We need to provide the best available data to them.”
Separately, the conferees proposed that all programs should be responsible for the placement of their students in an approved internship program, advocating if a program enrolls 25 students, it should be prepared to assure 25 internships at graduation. However, the details for accomplishing such an objective was left for each program to resolve.
In another significant action, the delegates recommended that graduates become eligible for licensing at the time they receive their doctorate degree. The premise for the action was to enable graduates to begin earning salaries sooner.
However, implementation of the proposal is replete with obstacles: Licensing laws in about 40 states would have to be altered, a potentially forbidding undertaking.
An issue that plagued some of the delegates was the restriction, based on antitrust law, to avoid dealing with the supply of psychologists and barriers to entry into the profession. Some delegates felt there was an urgent need for open dialogue related to the oversupply of graduates, the majority felt disinclined to broach the issue. The majority was mindful of the admonition by Nathalie F.P. Gilfoyle, APA deputy general counsel, who cautioned: “Whenever competitors get together to talk about market conditions, and how to effect them, antitrust concerns arise.”
Avoiding the supply debate did not sit well with William N. Robiner, Ph.D., a University of Minnesota Medical School professor. He complained that “98% of the conference was on demand, 2% on supply; we need to pay more attention to supply.” Robiner wanted discussion that would suggest ways of reducing the supply without reaching a threshold of restraint of trade concerns.
“If we are training too many people for traditional niches in which psychologists have operated, then let’s find new niches and new skills, and appeal to their creativity and ingenuity and other resourcefulness to use those psychological skills they gain other other domains such as business and other nontraditional roles,” Robiner said. He thought it would have been helpful to make a “strong statement” that there is an oversupply of personnel in health care. “This issue wasn’t even addressed,” he continued. “We should ask ourselves how many psychologists do we need for the workforce.”
Robiner, who is married to an attorney, thought the legal opinion which stifled debate about supply was ill-advised because “the lawyer’s job is to provide advice which helps you preserve your asserts–in this case, protecting the assets of APA and APPIC.” But, he noted, “it may not be quite the same as the needs of the student who might be unemployed, and who would want freer discussion.”