As in any career field, any profession, the means toward advancement or security is often based on the actions taken by the employee to get better, more knowledgeable or more competent at what they do.
For healthcare technology management professionals, the quickest route to getting ahead, beyond solid job performance, is to beef up your knowledge through education, training or certification. These things all create more value to an employer, more knowledge and greater competency.
Through the efforts of AAMI, the many great biomed education programs around the country and specialist recruiters, biomeds new to the field, along with seasoned veterans, can all find resources to advance their careers. It is just a matter of tapping into these resources to get started toward a more rewarding year.
Steven J. Yelton, PE, CHTM, professor/professor emeritus at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, recently provided an overview of AAMI’s educational offerings.
“AAMI has developed a vast array of ‘tools’ to help educational programs as well as employers and students, determine strengths and weaknesses. AAMI offers many documents including ‘Core Competencies for the Biomedical Equipment Technician,’ ‘AAMI Career Development Guide’ and the ‘BMET Study Guide.’ In addition, AAMI University offers continuing education, and now BMET program accreditation assistance is offered. AAMI’s board feels that this will help to enhance AAMI’s commitment to biomedical education.”
Yelton teaches biomedical instrumentation courses. He is also a member of AAMI’s Board of Directors, AAMI’s Foundation Board of Directors, Vice Chair of AAMI’s Technology Management Council, Chair of AAMI’s HTAC committee and is a member of the ABET Board of Delegates.
In the TechNations “Future” column, Yelton said that the “Core Competencies for the Biomedical Equipment Technician” guide is a great resource for educational institutions, BMETs and employers. A committee of diverse individuals from the HTM field developed this document. The Core Competencies guide will be updated and examined to assure that it contains current information. The guide is complete to the associate degree or entering technician level with plans to expand it in the future,” he says.
There are approximately 7,000 biomeds who hold the CBET certification. In 2015, two new certifications were added to the mix of certification exams. AAMI, through the AAMI Credentials Institute (ACI), offers numerous resources to help those investigating certification as a career enhancement option.
According to the AAMI ACI Certification Candidate Handbook; “Achieving ACI Certification indicates that certification candidates have demonstrated a broad knowledge skill-set in the specific certification area, general biomedical technologies, clinical laboratory technologies and medical imaging technologies, including regulatory requirements.”
“The ACI certification programs recognize healthcare technology management professionals whose practice reflects a high degree of knowledge about medical devices and clinical practice as well as skill in implementing electro-mechanical talent in the repair and maintenance of devices used in the delivery of health care,” says Sherrie Schulte, CAE, director of certification programs at AAMI.
ACI awards certification in five areas: Certified Biomedical Equipment Technician (CBET), Certified Laboratory Equipment Specialist (CLES), Certified Radiology Equipment Specialist (CRES), Certified Healthcare Technology Manager (CHTM) and Certified Quality System Manager (CQSM).
Schulte says that “each program requires an application and registration form fee. Candidates must meet the eligibility requirements of the individual certification program. Testing candidates must successfully pass a comprehensive closed-book exam that covers a particular area.”
She also points out that once a person has become certified, they must maintain the certification by completing a continuing practice journal every three years to show that they continue to educate themselves and stay up-to-date in current practices within the industry.
Three of the exams have become very familiar to most BMETs, as well as to those working with lab equipment and imaging technicians. The CBET, CRES and CLES certifications are geared toward those with a predetermined amount of experience already.
Those taking the CRES certification test should have experience with “a wide-range of medical imaging modalities.” Likewise, those testing for the CLES certification should have “experience with a wide-range of clinical laboratory devices,” according to AAMI.
Training for CBET certification even finds its way into the formal curriculum of degree programs.
“From my perspective, my students are really only focused on the generic certification, CBET,” says Barbara Christe, Ph.D., program director for the Healthcare Engineering Technology Management program, and Associate Professor in the Engineering Technology Department at the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis.
“The other options require more specialized training. As a result, we discuss the CBET exclusively. We actually start in the first course in the curriculum and show them the breakdown of topics (anatomy and physiology, safety, electricity, technology [devices], problem solving, and IT),” she says.
“We compare our curriculum to these sections to show the students what course content will be critical to save and archive for preparation for the exam,” she says. “This promotes students saving exams and text books. I urge students to take the exam as a candidate as soon as they are eligible — typically November for May grads.”
Christe says that by taking the exam right away, the electronics, A+P and other recent preparation is fresh. She says that alums of the program report that the information gets rusty the longer they wait.
“In addition, in my experience, students who study/prepare for the exam pass and students (even A students) who do not prepare, don’t pass. Reviewing the course materials seems to be a successful tool for my alums,” she says.
“In addition, we use the certification sample questions (available for purchase through AAMI) as questions on exams, especially in the last class that focuses on troubleshooting,” Christe says. “This approach offers students the ability to know the knowledge level expected for the exam.”
For managers, who are responsible for other HTM professionals who report to them, there is the Certified Healthcare Technology Manager (CHTM) certification. This is one of two newer certifications that were made available last year. The certification covers the management of operations and also of personnel.
AAMI says that “the manager is also expected to have the skills and understanding needed to perform strategic, business, and change management as well as employee relations.” Certification shows knowledge in all of these areas or responsibilities.
The other new certification now available is the Certified Quality System Manager (CQSM).
“The CQSM certification goes beyond assessing knowledge of standards and regulation,” Schulte says. “It is based on a holistic view of the roles and responsibilities of experienced quality system professionals and how they contribute to better, safer products.”
AAMI says that “quality system managers oversee all aspects of quality assurance including establishing metrics, applying industry best practices, and developing new tools and processes to ensure that quality goals are met.”
What is the cost?
“The cost of an AAMI exam ranges from $350-$500 depending on AAMI membership and the individual exam,” Schulte says. “Once certified, there is a renewal fee due every three years that ranges from $100-$150 for one certification.”
“As a college HTM program, we are currently receiving numerous requests for training in the area of CE-IT from both employers and students,” says Yelton. “This is the integration of Clinical Engineering and Information Technology. CE-IT is a very ‘hot’ area in Clinical Engineering/HTM departments.”
Yelton says that some of those requests for additional training are in the area of healthcare information technologies. He says that the training explores everything from how medical devices are connected to a network and cybersecurity to how the entire IT infrastructure of the hospital is constructed and how clinical engineering is affected.
“This is an area where the senior level personnel may not have training unless they have sought it out recently,” Yelton says. “Some of our recent graduates are trying to attain CE-IT training in order to give them some sought after skills when entering the job market.”
“Life-long learning in this profession is perhaps even more important than other engineering disciplines because of the evolving nature of medicine,” Christe says.
She says that at the Purdue program, they keep this in mind and “educate students on the opportunities for professional development and lifelong learning, including professional society membership.”
“We explore the need to connect with other professionals in the field (especially important in smaller, rural hospitals where staff members are few),” she adds.
Staying Up to Date
Getting a formal biomed degree, prior to entering the field, may be only half of the education and training equation. Like any profession, which changes and evolves, the need for continuing education and broader knowledge are realities that keep biomeds on their toes. There are many sources available for keeping HTM skills relevant and updated. AAMI, Fluke Biomedical and TechNation provide access to ongoing training, along with many other educational sources.
“Advantage Training from Fluke Biomedical and Unfors RaySafe is designed to ensure a good understanding of medical device quality assurance, the minimum performance and safety standards and other sources of requirements for testing, and expected test results. In addition, it provides why and how testing helps manage risks to patients based on how the medical devices in a medical facility are maintained,” explains Jerry Zion, global training manager/product manager for Fluke Biomedical Education and Training.
“In the near future, we will be adding a course in ‘Why Metrology Matters’ in Medical Device Quality Assurance. This knowledge of metrology, and why it matters, helps with risk mitigation and proper up-keep of test instruments and the medical devices themselves,” he says.
A certificate of completion is provided for each of the courses offered via Fluke’s Advantage Training Center. Zion says that they teach the “background and the proper use of our test instruments in doing medical device quality assurance testing, and calibration verification. We do not teach specifics of how to repair any particular medical device. That subject matter belongs to the medical device manufacturer.”
Zion says that mastery of the courses and topics Fluke teaches demonstrates an interest, enthusiasm and commitment to HTM as a career. He points out that an “understanding of medical device quality assurance best practices is transportable from one employer to the next. Wisdom, as to how this understanding is applied, is valuable to any medical facility, medical device manufacturer or third-party service provider,” he adds.
The self-served training from the Advantage Training Center is free of charge, Zion says. It just requires registration for access.
“We offer longer on-location training, frequently with hands-on, instructorled laboratories, which may be billable (i.e., have a participation price-tag). The self-served and on-location training are currently being evaluated by some of the universities and training schools in ASEAN as add-ins to their current curriculum, and may become accredited to the extent they become part of an accredited program offered by that academic center,” Zion says.
“Most people will benefit from self-served training to meet their need. This becomes part of what one invests in acquiring test instruments from Fluke Biomedical and RaySafe,” he adds.
Access to the Internet is a conduit to a wealth of information, along with on-location training.
“Now in its third year, TechNation’s Webinar Wednesday has quickly established itself as a popular educational resource for HTM professionals,” says Jayme McKelvey, who is the webinar marketing manager at MD Publishing. “Webinar Wednesday is a byproduct of our successful biannual MD Expo. We often asked ourselves how we could provide the same caliber of education that MD Expo is known for in a format that makes it accessible to the individuals unable to attend our shows. I think we found the best answer by creating the Webinar Wednesday series in 2014.”
McKelvey says that she is amazed by the rapid growth in participation of Webinar Wednesdays. Feedback remains very positive as well.
“In 2015, we had over 4,200 individuals participate in our webinars, and we provided 2,122 certificates for continuing education,” she says. “We are working with biomedical departments in Guyana, St. Lucia, the Philippines and other international locations to provide access to training they would never be able to receive.”
She says that the webinars are creating a valuable library of preventative maintenance, service and product information, that are then provided online for on-demand viewing.
“Most of our webinars are eligible for 0.1 CE credit from the ACI and typically run 60 minutes, including live Q&As with our presenters,” McKelvey adds.
This year, the number of webinars will increase. There are 20 scheduled, meaning that there are at least 20 opportunities to earn valuable CE credits from the convenience of a computer, laptop or smartphone.
There are HTM associations and societies from coast to coast. There are many benefits to participation and joining a local group can be a great way to further one’s career. Networking is one obvious benefit, but most groups also offer training opportunities, certifications training and presentations by representatives from OEMs. National organizations also present many great opportunities for getting involved.
“Participation in AAMI, NESCE (New England Society of Clinical Engineering) and CEAI (Clinical Engineering Association of Illinois) have all proven invaluable to my professional development. The networking alone has allowed me to make connections that have helped my career and others in the process,” says Barrett Franklin, MS, CCE, manager, Clinical Engineering Service Line, VA New England Healthcare System (VISN 1) in Bedford, Massachusetts.
Franklin says that getting involved with many HTM organizations, like AAMI and NESCE, can also lend a voice to his local counterparts, because his viewpoints and opinions “have been developed through my interactions, experiences and lessons learned from and alongside them.”
Franklin is also a member of AAMI’s Technology Management Council.
“Being a society leader is challenging, but it has paid back in spades; it’s given me opportunities to work on public speaking, leadership and at times management, often in a forum much less intimidating then in my work environment. If you make a mistake people recognize you’re a volunteer and that you’d welcome their help,” Franklin says.
Membership with AAMI allows HTM professionals to have access to high-quality education programs, subscriptions to AAMI publications, access to an online community of experts, industry events, an opportunity to participate on committees that develop standards and posting a resume for free on AAMI’s Career Center.
“AAMI membership is an important asset every healthcare technology professional should have at his/her disposal as they chart their career progression,” says Sabrina Reilly, vice president of Membership and Marketing at AAMI.
“Having a voice within AAMI’s community of more than 7,000 professionals devoted to advancing the safe and effective use of healthcare technology is crucial for staying on top of emerging trends and leading practices in the field as well as connecting with others,” she adds.
Reilly says that AAMI offers members significant discounts on a wide variety of benefits that provide opportunities to boost one’s skill set, enhance their resume and give them visibility among their peers.
“Both within AAMI, and outside of AAMI, there are lots of opportunities for HTM professionals to get involved in the greater HTM community,” says Patrick Bernat, director of healthcare technology management at AAMI.
“Many of AAMI’s brightest and best volunteers started out by volunteering for, or holding offices, in their local HTM associations. Local associations typically have a leadership structure, and also have ancillary positions such as webmaster or newsletter editor,” Bernat says.
Bernat adds that within AAMI, opportunities include mentoring, writing and reviewing articles for AAMI publications, blogging, participating on HTM-related committees, participation in the standards-development process, and joining online discussion groups, just to name a few.
He adds that there are also a number of HTM-related humanitarian efforts that do amazing work and that can always use more help.
With that said, it’s time to get involved in HTM anywhere you think you can make a difference.
And, as a means to get ahead and further your career ambitions, there are plenty of training and continuing education opportunities to meet any goal you may have as an HTM professional.
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