Professional education, either by formal college classes or in-depth training by the military, is essential as a foundation for a HTM professional. The goal of formal education or training is to establish a basic skill set in order to function in the HTM environment. As practical skills grow there needs to be an ability to reach out into the HTM profession. No matter where you are employed your individual scope of equipment exposure can be limited simply by the mission of your employer. Exposure to other professionals is an easy way to gain access to knowledge, best practices, and creation of a network. The HTM profession is very dynamic in nature and continued exposure to the latest technology has become a basic survival skill.
There is saying in business: “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” This also is very true in the HTM profession. There is a wealth of knowledge available by attending profession conferences such as the MD Expo, AAMI’s annual conference, or many regional symposiums. The large conferences such as AAMI and the MD Expo change geographical locations routinely to allow for individuals to shorten travel time and minimize time away from work. Many of the more regional conferences offer some great educational opportunities and a smaller-scale representation by vendors. The final component of all of these is a local state HTM professional organization, which will conduct routine meetings/presentations of a local interest.
If you have obtained any of the certifications such as CBET, CLES, CRES, or other professional certifications, a demonstration of ongoing learning is a requirement to maintain your certification. Many people struggle to find ways to access enough “points,” to maintain their certification. Attendance to a large professional conference allows for access to a variety of presentations/courses done by respected individuals in the HTM profession. This allows an attendee to select a mixture of courses to meet either an immediate educational need or a potential future technical interest. In many instances some courses outside of an individual’s immediate scope of duties may allow their first technical exposure to an exciting aspect of the HTM profession.
Building a professional network is extremely important for personal growth in any technical profession. Some of the first exposure many HTM professionals have to the presenters at a professional conference is through an article in a trade publication. Published articles are an excellent resource, but the chance to be able to meet an individual and ask a question in person is extremely valuable. I have found presenters have a passion for the HTM profession and enjoy the interaction with attendees. Simply by attending a specific class a person is already surrounded by a group of individuals who share a common interest. I have made many valuable contacts by simply attending the same class as other HTM professionals. The more diverse a professional network the better the ability to learn different perspectives especially from different areas and different business models.
Depending on the region of the country, different vendors will be on display. As the geographical location of the conference changes, many local vendors will offer tours of their home offices, the ability to tour these locations is extremely beneficial. During these types of tours there will be a diverse group of employees which can answer a variety of questions. Vendors work diligently to show their latest technologies and their overall current product lines. Interaction with the vendors is face to face, this allows the ability for both the vendor and attendee to gain a better understanding of support needs. Another major consideration is the ability to compare similar equipment/products with very minimal effort, especially when everything is in a relatively contained physical location. The environment of a conference is more relaxed, so this allows for the interaction to also be more relaxed. I make it a point to meet every vendor in the exhibit hall, because the needs of today will certainly change. No one can predict the future of their job, but simply learning about as many types of equipment as possible creates a more well-rounded technical background.
Each type of professional conference whether AAMI, MD Expo, or a regional conference, will provide access for an individual to gain valuable experience. Just like a technician’s tool kit, each component of these conferences serves a different need to an HTM professional. The more engaged HTM professionals are in our profession the better it is for everyone. In my experience there has never been a class or program that I have attended where I did not learn something. Exploring all forms of technology and new ideas will only enhance an HTM professional’s technical abilities. Also, HTM department management needs to remember that sending young technical staff will help to build depth of staff. The next time there is an opening for promotion, this simple investment in current staff may lead to the next senior technician. As with any form of education the more engaged the greater the benefit.
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