Some groups hold an annual conference that includes guest speakers, events and good food. HTM associations range from small groups to large multi-chapter organizations.
Few people know more about starting and guiding HTM associations than Pat Lynch, CCE, CBET, fACCE, CHTS-PW, CPHIMS. He is the go-to person with a wealth of experience when it comes to negotiating the many considerations of establishing a new group.
Lynch says that AAMI offers a resource for those looking to take the plunge and get an organization off the ground, but he has also been empowered, through his employer GMI, to help any group seeking assistance.
“My company funds me to travel wherever needed to talk, organize, enlighten, and do much of the organizational legwork,” he says. “Having a person who is available to walk the leadership through all of the myriad issues is extremely important.”
AAMI also offers a biomedical society leaders discussion group to allow for an exchange of ideas. On their website, AAMI says the discussion group assists leaders with “managing their organizations, including recruitment of members, developing quality programming for meetings, (and) communicating with members.”
In addition, AAMI also has a page of resources on their website called “Idea Exchange: Biomedical Societies,” which covers a host of topics and provides links to resources covering everything from membership application samples to tax issues, meeting planning, scholarship awards to organizational considerations.
The AAMI information provided a blueprint for the Armed Forces Biomedical Society (AFBS). The group’s leader had discovered that some research had been performed before he took the helm, and then he found the AAMI information.
“I asked for the information and began working on a plan to establish a committee. This is when I was introduced to the AAMI document titled ‘How to Establish a Biomedical Society,’” “says AFBS President Diego Gomez-Morales. “I could not believe how detailed this document was. I followed this document step by step during our initial meeting so the committee would stay focused. I had to be firm and consistent in following this document because I felt it provided us with a structured timeline.”
The Foundation Block
The late motivational speaker and radio legend, Earl Nightingale, once said that “everything begins with an idea.” An old Chinese proverb says that “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” One big step in establishing a new HTM association is the decision to do it and the action needed to make it a reality.
“Local interest is essential. I can help them through the organizational steps, but I will not be there to lead the association month to month. There has to be a local passion,” Lynch says.
“The start is to announce an organizational meeting. It is usually a dinner meeting. All major hospitals in the area are encouraged to attend, by special invitations over the phone. Special work has to be done to encourage employees of ISOs to attend. They usually are not big participants of local associations, but can benefit just as much as hospital employed biomeds.”
The California Medical Instrumentation Association (CMIA) has been around since 1972. The association has nine chapters spanning the country’s most populated state.
“The bottom line is willing volunteers,” says Gus Sakis, the 2011 and 2012 statewide chairman of the board for CMIA. “People willing to step up and do the work required to keep the CMIA going. Memberships; both individual and corporate, are a very important effort and require annual monitoring. Corporate sponsors; we could not exist and do some of the things we do without them. They are the financial backbone of the CMIA.”
Sakis says other important components include “meetings, setting a schedule, arranging for presentations, education, food and beverage is time consuming.”
He says that regional events take even more work. “With booth/table sales for exhibitors, registration, and most important education.” And he says that statewide symposiums require even more work, and like every other facet of an HTM association, require people willing to step up and do the important work.
Most HTM associations started with a small group of people who wanted to bring together biomeds to share what they know and provide opportunities for rubbing elbows with hiring managers and getting a look at the newest medical equipment.
“It is almost impossible to get local biomeds interested in a yet-to-be-created association. Everyone wants to wait until there is something established before they commit to supporting it,” Lynch points out. “We have tried to rev up widespread interest in establishing an organization. These put the cart before the horse and all have failed. The better way is to be content with a few — 6 to 12 — interested individuals, set up the association, and then invite people to attend.”
This initial core group of people, who make an early commitment to the new organization, is part of a constant and recurring theme in the development of a new association according to those who know.
“Every society will need a group of people who not only have the time, but are willing to put the time in, for it to succeed. If you look at any of the most successful societies around the country, you will note that all of them have a core group of leaders. That is not to say the leadership cannot change over time, but you always need a core group to keep the organization moving,” says Barrett Franklin, immediate past president of the New England Society of Clinical Engineering (NESCE).
“The best advice I can give is to start with a core group of dedicated individuals who are passionate about their profession,” says John Alvenus, CBET, president of the Florida Biomedical Society (FBS). “Find the people who enjoy their job and are willing to help others. Our organization, FBS, has been very fortunate to have several of these dedicated individuals.”
Once this core group has been assembled and local HTM professionals have been invited to a meeting, it is important that other early participants share the new group’s mission.
“Locate and recruit like-minded dedicated HTM professionals,” says Fred Jaramillo, the former president of the Colorado Association of Biomedical Equipment Technicians (CABMET). “Develop a mission so the team is on the same page (and) enlist support from a mentor.”
“Develop vendor relations to financially/clerically support the association, but not so much where vendors control the organization. All organizations should be member-ran. Put together a constitution and by-laws,” Jaramillo adds.
“There needs to be a review of the geographic area/territory that you want to consider including in your association. What are the borders of the neighboring associations to create the region you want and not to infringe on the associations around you?” says Dave Francoeur, regional vice president for Crothall Healthcare.
“You also have to consider the area may be too big for individuals to actively participate,” he adds. “Decide what your organizational structure will look like. Big enough so a few are not doing the work of many, and not so big that people can’t participate and feel included. Make sure the folks that play leadership roles are leaders.”
“You always need to have a large enough, and interested group for the society as a larger entity, to sustain,” Franklin says. “As an example, NESCE typically has five to seven members supporting the executive actions of the organization and typically brings together more than 50 people for meetings and more than 200 for symposia.”
Franklin also suggests that other established organizations can provide guidance.
“To anyone trying to start a society, I would suggest reaching out to the leadership of successful societies, potentially attending an established society meeting if possible, as well as pulling resources from AAMI, which has been very supportive through annual regional society roundtables at the AAMI conference,” he says.
Grow and Prosper
Jaramillo recommends keeping meetings to a reasonable length.
“Do not let meetings run over time. If necessary stop the meeting at the published time and tell people that want to stay they can stay and let others go that planned on leaving at a certain time,” agrees Dave Scott, who has run CABMET’s famed study group for years.”Some people drive from long distances and that needs to be taken into account.”
Scott has partnered with other associations nationwide to extend the benefits of the CAMBET Study Group to a larger audience.
“CABMET offers partnership with other associations,” he says. “That way other associations can join our certification study group and use CABMET’s program, but run it as their association’s group. This team approach has worked out great for other associations.”
This effort is just one example of how inter-association cooperation can be a building block of successful groups. The lessons learned by other associations can provide a guide to new organizations. This lesson-learned approach is something Lynch brings to the table from the start.
“At the organizational meeting, my favorite thing is to present an overview of some of the associations from around the country; different philosophies, different geographies, different meeting frequencies,” Lynch says. “I also profile associations that have failed. We discuss the fatal flaws that led to their demise and review proposed by-laws and organizational structures that will prevent this from happening again.”
“One other key to success is to be consistent on where you host the meetings,” Alvenus says. “It should be a central location to draw the most attendees. We have ours in central Florida at Disney every year.”
“By having things for the other members of the family to do, while the attendee is in class, helps everyone enjoy themselves,” he explains. “A new association should start small and build on its success for future years. The best way to interest the current biomeds in attending the symposium is to offer classes they are interested in learning about.”
Alvenus suggests getting the vendor, if possible, to offer the same training they put on at their facility and provide BMETs with a factory training certificate.
“This goes a long way toward getting the buy-in from their supervisors and managers,” he says. “When the managers and directors are on board they will send the biomeds. The best advice I can give a society looking to start a new chapter or state organization is to attend a successful society’s meeting; get to know their officers and ask questions.”
“Last summer, we organized a two-day training session on the Covidien ForceTriad energy platform for our members,” says Chris Coleman, CBET, president of the Healthcare Technology Management Association of the Mid-West.
“This year we’ve brought in Pat Lynch of GMI to speak to us about cost to service ratios in future equipment management planning and Don Allen, Director of Biomedical Engineering at Mercy Hospital in Joplin, Mo., to talk about how that department dealt with getting hit by a tornado,” Coleman says. “Both of these presentations directly relate to biomeds.”
Coleman says that for the past four years, in June or July, the HTMA-MW gets tickets to a minor league ballgame and they have a big tailgate preceding it.
What approach works for getting the newest HTM professionals involved in an association or society?
“Probably the most important is by aligning ourselves with the local colleges who have biomed tech programs,” states Chris Walton, CBET, MS, treasurer of the Washington State Biomedical Association.
“In our case, there are three; North Seattle College, Bates Technical College, and Spokane Community College,” Walton says. “We provide scholarships for all three schools and we hold our annual symposium at North Seattle. I also go out to the college and give lectures to incoming students and to their program about the biomed field in general. During that talk, I urge them to get involved in our association, and I even take copies of your magazine (TechNation), and hand them out. The reason is that they need to know that they can learn a lot about the profession by reading these journals.”
“It is also very important that some of the instructors at these schools also urge their students to participate,” he adds. “About 20 percent of our members are students. They eventually will begin working in the HTM field. These students come to the meetings to try to get internships at local hospitals and companies, to network, and to learn. It is a win/win for everyone.”
Sakis summarizes the one component that is the inevitable foundation of every one of these groups.
“From my experience, the most important things needed to grow and maintain a biomed group — or HTM group — is people,” he says.
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