It’s a fact that structure in our lives can reduce stress and keep us on track. Better yet, a structured approach to a goal can get us there with a higher probability of success. It is with these facts in mind that AAMI developed a guide to career advancement. Career advancement can mean many things, but the goal is to do something that is fulfilling and meaningful.
New York Yankees great, Yogi Berra once said; “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” AAMI’s goal with the Career Ladder is to make sure HTM professionals end up where they want to be and where they need to be.
As part of AAMI’s Technology Management Council (TMC), the Job Descriptions Task Force developed the AAMI Career Planning Handbook, which debuted in June of last year. It was designed with the goal of bringing clarification and standardization to the required skill set of HTM professionals who often have disparate roles and titles across the spectrum of health care settings. The handbook outlines the education and experience that is required to climb the career ladder in any chosen HTM career path.
“AAMI’s Technology Management Council developed this career planning handbook to fill a major void in the HTM field,” said AAMI Chief Operating Officer Steve Campbell. “This concise handbook is designed to help HTM professionals identify various career opportunities, describe what skills are needed to move up, and what career paths are available. And that’s what I love most about it – it’s practical and easy to use. The handbook includes everything from interviewing tips to guidance on meeting with supervisors and human resources.”
“We owe a great debt of gratitude to the HTM leaders who worked on this AAMI project – Barb Christe, Mary Coker, Barrett Franklin, Jack McNerny, Pat Lynch, Dave Scott, Dustin Telford, Karen Waninger, and Steve Yelton. They went above the call of duty to develop this handbook which will help so many professionals in the HTM field,” Campbell added.
The HTM professionals Campbell mentions come from a diverse cross-section of leaders in the field. Barbara Christe, Ph.D, is program director of Healthcare Engineering Technology Management and associate professor of the Engineering Technology Department at Indiana University-Purdue University. Mary Coker, CBET, CCE, is director of Clinical Engineering at Providence Hospitals. Barrett Franklin, MS, CCE, is chief clinical engineer at the VA New England Hospital. Jack E. McNerny Jr., CBET, works for Johnson & Johnson Healthcare. Patrick Lynch, CBET, CCE, is chief do-gooder for Global Medical Imaging. David Scott, CBET, is a biomedical technician at Children’s Hospital Colorado. Dustin Telford, CBET, CRES, CLES, is with earthMed and Children’s Hospital Colorado. Karen Waninger is the clinical engineering director at Community Health Network. Steven Yelton is a professor at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College.
This group brought a wide range of experiences, perspectives and professionalism to the task of developing a sequential, logical and methodical set of steps to lead HTM professionals through their career.
“The development of the handbook was both challenging and rewarding,” says Franklin. “In all, the team was very dedicated, meeting consistently, over several months, and taking on considerable ‘homework’ between each meeting.”
“We recognized early on, that the tool we sought to create had a significant potential value, not only to new and veteran members of the HTM field, but also for HTM leaders and human resources alike. As such, we worked diligently to consider the details and the inter-relationships that we sought to more clearly define,” he adds. “Ultimately, for a tool to have the backing of a nationally recognized organization such as AAMI brings significant validation, and as such, we want to make sure we got it right.”
“We worked diligently to create the basis for a career roadmap of sorts – one that would support a new technician or engineer as well as an HR department working to design career progression within their organization,” Franklin says.
“The journey to AAMI’s Career Ladder and Career Planning Handbook grew out of a recognition that the Biomedical/Clinical/Medical – Engineering (now Healthcare Technology Management) community, when compared to physicians, nurses, or hospital administrators, was a numerically small group without clearly defined career pathway(s) or opportunity,” McNerny says. “HTM is not a licensed practice in the U.S. as it is in some other countries.”
“The group then ideated on those career options and step-by-step detail on how individuals could or would reach each of those end goals, ultimately giving our HTM audience clear and defined steps to reach their individual career goals,” McNerny adds.
McNerny reflects that the process was long and detailed, including investigating, reviewing, refining, and validating endless details, with the goal of delivering a comprehensive guide in the end.
“The team set many self-imposed goals for our group, that we were all determined to fulfill. The group partnered with Alice Waagen, Ph.D. of ‘Workforce Learning’ to help ‘monitor’ the team’s focus, direction, and productivity (if you will). Alice did just that and helped keep us focused, kept us on task, and summarized our progress each step of the way. By the fall of 2014 AAMI’s Career Planning Handbook and AAMI’s Leadership Development Guide was published.”
With accreditation from The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), AAMI is the lead society in the HTM profession for setting guidelines and assisting in accreditation of college degree programs for biomedical engineering programs.
What all this means is that there can be more standardization, development of best practices and materials disseminated that provide guidelines for programs and career paths. And, career growth doesn’t necessarily mean moving up the proverbial corporate ladder. Many HTM professionals are very happy in their current position. So, it can mean growth within that position as well.
Conversely, career growth can mean moving into the next higher level of responsibility and skill set. It can mean aiming for a position in department management and beyond. In any case, having a blueprint to achieve that career path, can make it happen. The guide is also a tool that management can use to develop well-defined career paths within an HTM department.
To put the whole effort into perspective, it is necessary to go back to 2011 and revisit the aspirations of AAMI’s “Future Forum I,” which was a foreshadowing of what became the HTM profession. If the field was beginning to feel like Rodney Dangerfield, it was about to experience some brainstorming to change that feeling. For starters, the name “healthcare technology management” was chosen as a single unifying moniker for the field.
The following year, “Future Forum II” was convened and the field advanced some more through recognition of newer risk management requirements and creating more standardization. This included job titles and descriptions and a need to define career paths more succinctly.
AAMI’s “Future Forums” encouraged HTM leaders to deliberate, discuss and debate the future of the field. The forums in turn helped set the stage for the career handbook. It was understood that health care was changing and advancing technologically and the newly named HTM profession had to be cutting edge, as well as provide thought leaders, to stay relevant.
Several participants from Future Forum II agreed to work together to establish a definition and outline for job titles and to describe the daily activities for those roles. They considered much of the current debate within the field as well as guidelines for management and HR.
The result of all the work by the Career Planning Handbook participants was presented by Scott and Waninger at the AAMI Annual Conference in June of last year. The presentation gave an early review of what the career ladder concept was all about.
“It’s also worth noting that there’s a companion publication, called ‘AAMI’s Leadership Development Guide,’ which provides practical guidance to managers and those who aspire to be managers,” Campbell says. “Think of it as a 32-page toolkit – filled with helpful tips and guidance. A special thanks goes out to AAMI’s Healthcare Technology Leadership Committee, who worked on the guide too.”
“These two handbooks are important elements of AAMI’s work to support the great work of HTM professionals and to strengthen the HTM field,” Campbell adds.
“The handbook is a foundation tool to verify and standardize the profession. Each step of the way, content was discussed in detail by a team of HTM professionals from many aspects of the industry as well as input at large from the HTM community,” says Coker.
McNerny says that the discussion drilled down to identify requirements and skills.
“The first steps for the team included a great deal of dialog on requirements. Specifically identifying what the employment and career development requirements — and preferences — are in the 21st century. Meaning, a) What are current expectations or desires when employing individuals this day and age? b) What are the specific skills needed for HTM in practice? c) How are those skills acquired? d) We identified several sub-specialties or career tracks that any HTM could use as a guide. e) What are specific requirements for individual career development for any of the sub-specialties or career paths?”
Pointing the Way
The guide starts out with something so obvious that many may overlook it; setting career goals. A ship without a rudder will drift wherever the tide takes it. Nobody can afford to let their career mimic a rudderless ship.
With several suggested steps, the first step in the career guide spells out what questions to ask yourself when setting some medium-term goals. Once these questions are answered, a clear statement of that goal can be formulated and written out.
“The structure of the guide was aimed at being accessible. We recognized from our own experiences that defining a roadmap no matter where in your career path you are can be daunting and as such we wanted the tool to be approachable, clear, and provide insight on the steps to get from A to B,” Franklin says.
Do your homework. This is the gist of the second step in the guide. It suggests that if you want to move into a new position, find out all of the minutiae that is not listed in a job description. You may understand the technical requirements of the position, but you may not know the real-world experience of a person working at that job. The guide offers many suggestions about how to learn all that you should really know before setting your sights on that position.
Taking an inventory and self-assessment of your skills, strengths and weaknesses. This is the direction that the guide suggests in the third step. It presents a list of resources that will allow you to evaluate your work habits, interpersonal skills and time management skills. You can then have a baseline based on your studied evaluation.
Knowing your strengths is just one side of the coin. The guide then suggests that you determine your deficits and deal with them. The guide instructs that you take your future needs from the second step and the results of your current assets from the third step and determine what’s lacking after comparing both.
By the guide’s fifth step, you are ready to create your plan. Your plan contains clearly defined goals and steps to achieve each. This is where the Career Planning Handbook shifts into overdrive. The guide goes into detail about creating a personal development plan and prioritizing activities to achieve results.
No amount of planning matters until it is put into action. The guide outlines how to take this important step in step six. All of this preparation preempts the next section which is labeled the toolkit. It includes a “Technician Career Progression Grid,” and a graphic depicting three potential career progressions for an HTM career; technician, clinical engineer and leadership.
A skills inventory worksheet, gap analysis and personal development plan are included along with planning worksheets within the toolkit section.
A section titled “Career Planning Opportunities” follows with a list of formal education programs available to HTM professionals. Some suggested developmental activities are included and suggest ways to implement the education information. There is also a page devoted to those targeting leadership opportunities followed by a definition of general skills and experience along with related developmental activities. More specific experience and associated developmental activities round out the section.
The handbook offers a section on public safety and regulatory requirements followed by customer service. Both areas of development are part and parcel of an HTM career regardless of the path you choose. And, for those who want to develop special equipment expertise, there are development activities that will get you there.
Communicating your plan gets it all from paper to reality. The career handbook outlines everything you should do to meet with your boss and HR to set your goals into a real career path. An informative FAQ section rounds out the guide.
Entering HTM and Feedback
“The career ladder helps my students who are certain they want only one track: imaging field service (“radiology specialist” in the guide), because it earns the highest paychecks,” says Christe.
“The material in the guide outlines the steps to move into this field and shows that it is not a quick or simple process,” she adds.
“In addition, I strongly endorse the education stipulation of an associate degree for a level one technician,” Christe says. “For many years, I have been vocal that a college degree should be an entry-level credential. In a world where everyone in the clinical setting has some kind of academic credential, it seemed that our profession was not doing ourselves justice by implying/stating/advocating no degree requirement.”
“I am certain many long-time HTM professionals disagree, but recommending this background now offers hope that it will be implemented in the future,” Christe adds.
The response from educators has been positive.
“Thus far the feedback I have received has been very positive. I have talked with several educational institutions that have shared the document with their students,” Franklin says.
“HTM practitioners now have some clear guidance to accomplishing their personal career goals that was not cohesively here-to-fore available to these individuals. In the past, we could only hope that opportunity would shine on HTMs. Now, and in the future, U.S. HTMs may be recognized and valued for their contributions as their licensed counterparts are in other parts of the world,” McNerny says.
Through this guide, we were able to produce clear career opportunity and development direction, from entry-level technician or staff engineer, through the C-suite.
Steer your HTM career in the right direction with the AAMI Career Planning Handbook. Take advantage of all the thought, debate and discussion that went into its creation. Find it online at http://goo.gl/EY9aab
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