Steven J. Yelton, P.E., CHTM, Senior Consultant for HTM, Christ Hospital Health Netowrk
I have discussed cooperative education and internships in this column in the past. However, the focus of this column is to present from an employer’s perspective on how using cooperative education (co-op) students as an integral part of the HTM department personnel may enhance the overall performance of the department. Traditionally, this is a paid position where the student alternates between full-time school semesters and full-time work semesters. Two students who alternate with each other in school and work generally fill this type of position. This varies from a typical internship where the student generally works one or part of one semester usually for without compensation. I must mention, at this point, that these arrangements are certainly not in stone and compensation and work arrangements vary.
My focus will be to discuss the benefits of using a paid co-op position as part of the an HTM department staff.
In this arrangement, co-ops are productive members of the department, budgeted FTEs with job descriptions/duties. The co-op student has learning objectives, they are mentored, and both the college and hospital evaluate the co-op and their experience. Co-ops are viewed as “multipliers,” specifically those individuals/positions that “enlarge the scope and effectiveness of others.” Each co-op is required to do a medical technology presentation to the department each semester. The student receives college credit for their co-op experience. It is a job with learning built in. Finally, mentoring the co-op is critical, “one reaps what one sows” to borrow a biblical quote.
The benefits of the co-op students, in the hospital community, are a consistent source of prepared students to move into new or newly open entry-level positions upon graduation, regardless if it is in the program hospital where the student worked or another. Our recruiting costs are lowered. The time duration of unfilled positions drops. The co-op program for our community shapes the entire region’s HTM (providers, vendors, OEMs and ISOs). The co-op students’ role benefits the HTM department in other ways not always “hard” financial or “productive” reasons; they offer a resource to the rest of the team, filling a less technical role, assists when a second person is needed, preparing equipment for on-boarding, i.e. a multiplier position. Employers not hiring co-op students also benefit, as they often hire “experienced” students trained courtesy of the co-op employers. The ongoing supply of experienced students in our region and regions where these programs exist accounts for the majority of the HTM (BMET) staff. Of course, there has to be enough employers to believe and commit to the co-op role for this to work. The reason is not about inexpensive labor or a steady supply of talent, it is because we all have a responsibility to train the next generation.
Student positions also offer the opportunity for both parties to assess each other. Questions like “Is this a good fit for the student?” “Is this job what the student expected it to be?” “Is the employer happy with the co-op student’s performance/attitude?” “How is the student’s work ethic, communication, professionalism, customer satisfaction skills, and technical abilities?” If a position is available and there is a good student/employer fit, then an employer gains a former student who seamlessly fills the position, with on-boarding, basic training and familiarity with the work environment completed and career path ready. This is also a substantial cost saving verses a national search for a HTM technician and even then the employer hasn’t had the experience of working with the candidate.
I feel that using this type of arrangement enables the creation of a highly functioning HTM department. It has been my experience that HTM departments that utilize this type of co-op arrangement or an internship find it much easier to fill open positions and have a seamless flow of qualified technicians.
It has been my experience that employers have valued the cooperative education or internship experience when properly planned and executed as an extremely valuable addition to the student’s earned degree.
I would like to thank my colleague, Greg Herr of The Christ Hospital Health Network for his insights into this column as a career long employer of co-op students and interns. In our discussion of this topic Greg stated the following, “It has always been a point to establish internships or co-op positions during my career. It is both a benefit to the department and it gives back to the profession. But how does one justify the cost of a paid student? Co-ops/internships can be ineffective or effective positions, essentially the student positions must be set up and managed effectively, benefiting the employer and the student. A sound business case will show that co-ops are not a luxury, but a valuable resource. Co-ops have to be planned and budgeted, built into the department. In my experience, trying to convince financially harried leadership of the need for a paid student position is difficult. What would you say? However, a student position sold as a productive technologist assigned duties with lower thresholds of training/knowledge than a full-time specialist has been effective for us.”
In closing my column this month, I feel that Greg said it best: “It just isn’t about ROIs and financial benefits, students that are motivated and curious challenge and energize the regular staff. Teaching new skills or explaining how something works is a most rewarding experience.”
Steven J. Yelton, P.E., CHTM; is a Senior Consultant for HTM at The Christ Hospital Health Network in Cincinnati, Ohio and is a Professor at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College where he teaches biomedical instrumentation courses. He is the Secretary-Treasurer of AAMI’s Board of Directors, AAMI’s Foundation Board of Directors, Chair of AAMI’s Technology Management Council (TMC), Chair of AAMI’s HTAC Committee and is a member of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), Board of Delegates.
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