The late Vince Lombardi once said; “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”
While the coach was talking about football, and life in general, the effort involved in career development can’t be ruled out. It takes hard work and determination to get ahead in a career and to accumulate more knowledge in the process.
The process in most positions includes continuing education, training, reading and research.
Career advancement can be strategically planned out by taking several proactive steps and methodically working a plan. Getting involved in professional organizations, finding a knowledgeable mentor and networking all play a role.
Experts suggest setting goals with well-defined timelines. They also suggest talking to the boss to determine what opportunities exist. Also, while meeting with a manager, seek out feedback and get the perspective of peers. It can be useful to query your peers about your strengths and weaknesses. Managers can benefit by asking for honest feedback from employees about these same attributes.
For the HTM professional, it can also include attending classes taught by ISOs, OEM classes and professional conferences. All contribute toward practical, hands-on knowledge that can make the HTM professional more valuable to their employer.
These are the skills that help take a BMET I to a BMET II and eventually to a BMET III. It is this knowledge that produces a lead biomed and, eventually, a manager and director. This increased knowledge can lead to a more specialized expertise in areas of critical demand. That specialized expertise provides the biomed with more potential for career growth.
A prime example of this has grown out of the need for network knowledge in recent years. The HTM professional with some IT-focused certifications is well-positioned.
What should the path to career advancement look like? It includes introspection, lifelong learning and goal setting. Sometimes career advancement comes out of finding and filling a need.
“From my personal experience, I started out in our department as a student going through my B.S. in biomedical engineering technology, growing quickly into an entry level biomed role,” says Anthony McCabe, MBOE, MBA, BS, LSSBB, associate director of the Wexner Medical Center Department of Clinical Engineering.
“Once I got into that role, it was finding the areas that were of a potential that nobody else wanted to do or had the education to help out. Seeing that projects were something that we did as a clinical engineering department, I also found a gap that nobody had any formal education in that arena, so I went after my MBA with a concentration in project management,” McCabe says.
He says that this helped him advance his career even more and rise up through the ranks, leading projects, and eventually leading to a linear accelerator engineer position.
“Wanting to do even more for the department in operations, and for the entirety of our medical system, I went after my masters of business operational excellence and also received a Black Belt certification in Lean Six Sigma and completing a capstone project that saved our organization millions on service agreement costs over multiple years through standardization and reduction of variability within the processes,” McCabe adds.
Finding a need, and growing into that need, makes a person valuable to the organization and helps with career progression.
McCabe says that while he doesn’t advocate for people to get a degree just for the sake of getting a degree, he thinks the process of continuing education is to focus on a true gap that you see in the workforce and chase after that.
“I see a lot of people go for the degrees or certifications that everyone seems to have these days, without a real purpose behind it. Making that situation worse, the individual may take on enormous amounts of personal debt, and then don’t ever get the opportunity to go further beyond that point all just because that piece of paper alone doesn’t practically set them apart,” he says.
McCabe says that career advancement can come about by discovering the gaps that exist in your current organization, or in the field in general, and doing something to help make yourself stand out among your peers.
“Learn about something new, take the initiative and highlight your efforts through the work you are able to do to support the need. There are educational sessions being held all over the place that are free, that help you hone your own skills on top of the big items, such as for public speaking, Microsoft Office programs, networking, etcetera,” he says.
“I think alone, separately, these things don’t make you stand out a whole lot, but when you keep adding them to your repertoire, they all lead up to someone that helps lead that pathway to success,” he adds.
It is not only in the HTM professional’s best interests to investigate methods for career advancement but in leadership’s best interests as well. Clinical engineering managers and directors have taken strategic steps to ensure career progression and job satisfaction for their staffs.
“Career advancement planning is an integral part of employee morale, employee retention and succession planning. Without a good employee career advancement plan in place, not only will employee satisfaction suffer, but employee turnover will increase,” says Walter Barrionuevo, CHTM, CMLSO, director of clinical engineering for BayCare Health System.
Barrionuevo says that his department has taken steps to assist the clinical engineering team members in achieving career goals.
“We begin this process by annually discussing career goals and aspirations with each team member. We also created a job matrix which shows which skills/tasks are required for each job level. This assists the team member in identifying what skills/tasks are necessary for each specific job description and identify areas that still need improvement,” he says.
“The other area that was identified was the need for a new job description that bridges the gap from a Biomed III to a diagnostic imaging engineer/field services. We created a new job description which provides a path for biomedical technicians to move in to and obtain the necessary training and experience to ultimately fulfill the role of a diagnostic imaging engineer,” Barrionuevo adds.
Training and education, along with more meaningful hands-on experience, help biomeds further their knowledge and advance their careers.
“We cannot allow a BMET I to only fix low level/low risk repairs such as suction regulators. We need to get our less-experienced staff engaged very early in learning all aspects of healthcare technology management and the technology that drives it. We must not let ourselves fall into the trap of tradition, relegating junior technicians to menial tasks because that’s what we were relegated to,” says George Reed, director of clinical engineering at WakeMed Health and Hospitals in Raleigh, North Carolina.
“We need to allow junior BMETs to either assist in or manage more complex device repairs that traditionally are only assigned to their more experienced staff. We are seeing more and more of our junior technicians entering the field with a bachelor’s degree in areas of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Department leadership should recognize the value of these skills along with computer network-based education as the future of HTM,” Reed adds.
Management’s Plan to Help with Careers
The many avenues available for training can be based on areas of interest.
“OEM and third-party training are important avenues for us to continue to develop staff. We will train more than one person in certain modalities and will train additional in some cases. Conferences provide opportunities to introduce our staff to new technologies and different career paths in addition to developing their current skills,” says Dan Blaisdell, biomedical engineering supervisor for ProHealth Care in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
“Staff members, who show interest in areas outside their normal role, attend conferences and basic training to help them gauge their interest. Training will continue if the staff member continues to show interest and aptitude. This process allows staff members to transition into new positions with a better understanding of their new role and a solid foundation of skills,” Blaisdell says.
This individual approach by leadership to developing the careers of biomeds is shared by Andrea Brainard, CBET, director of healthcare technology management at Children’s Health in Dallas, Texas.
“I believe each situation is different, and in my experience, I’ve found it’s better to evaluate each team member and his or her accomplishments in context. In other words, there is no ‘cookie cutter’ approach to advancement, and I wouldn’t place labels or assign a specific set of milestones a team member should reach to get to the next level,” she says.
Brainard says that in the past, there was a mindset that you had to “do your time” in order to graduate to the next level. Motivated biomeds often can have a leg-up on those with less determination.
“I never liked that approach because some team members may have greater longevity in a role, but they may not be prepared to take the next step. They may be content in their current role and wish to stay where they are, and that is OK. A team member’s career path is often contingent on his or her desire and willingness to advance. Experience is always important, but so is a person’s drive and job competencies,” Brainard says.
“As such, I look for team members who are proactive in their day-to-day activities, forward thinkers, ambitious, and have the desire to do the work it takes to grow into the next level roles. To me, these indicators far outweigh how long you’ve been doing the job and how many OEM or ISO classes you’ve taken. Trained biomed technicians should be able to work on almost anything without the excuse of ‘I haven’t been to the service school,’” Brainard adds.
This effort to develop oneself beyond the textbook skills is one that impresses Jim Fedele, CBET, senior program director of clinical engineering, BioTronics for UPMC in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
“In my opinion, it takes preparation in the form of OEM training, knowledge of current industry issues and self-development outside of technical training. Now that I have been a manager for a long time, I am most impressed with technicians that do more than attend OEM training,” Fedele says.
His best impression is derived from the technicians that pursue self-development to improve the intangible aspects of their skills.
“For instance, skills like leadership, customer service, decision making and listening, these are all attributes that make a technician more valuable and will help propel them in their career. Many times, I have met 20-year technicians that have only attend OEM training that was organized by their employer and have done nothing on their own to improve themselves,” Fedele adds.
Blaisdell says that ProHealth Care developed career paths for staff members that allows them to advance through technical, operational and leadership careers. Some positions can be entered into directly depending upon the abilities, experience or attitude.
They offer a diagram that illustrates career paths for employees.
“Additionally, entry into leadership path was not indicated because there are numerous possibilities to enter from the other paths, and the connectors would start to get confusing,” he says.
“I do have a training plan for each employee. It lists the training I would like to see them have and also their requests. The plan continues out two to three years and is reviewed periodically with each employee. This is very fluid and often changes based upon department need,” Blaisdell says.
That proactive, ambitious approach that Brainard alluded to is the advice that McCabe suggests for a BMET I as a launching point for growth.
“My experience is to get involved in every opportunity as a BMET I to get that strong foundation, and take advantage of any trainings formally approved through management as possible. Always ask for the basics to be provided, but try to find one spectrum to excel in,” he suggests.
“Help management by identifying an area that may be under contract or an area that isn’t well structured for support, and propose a solution in the form of researching the training needed to get you there and packaging that together for management,” McCabe says.
“Doing this legwork may not only make you stick out as a candidate, but makes their job easier to review things and approve rather than try to pull all of that info together and pick someone whom may not be you,” he adds.
He says that this is a good approach to get to BMET II, and then from there it gets a little more complicated to move up to that BMET III role.
“There are still those similar opportunities, but it’s adding those additional tools to your belt that help you reach those goals. Taking a leadership role to help with operational efficiencies is always a great way to go,” he adds. McCabe says that certifications and education can help also if they are justified to bridge the next gap and show your worth.
He says that biomeds who can improve processes and eliminate obstacles to those processes make themselves valuable to management.
“For me it was implementing more lean principles and foundations into the clinical engineering department, as it made management look better by improving our numbers, it made the other technicians’ lives easier by creation of standards and workflows that cut out waste and allowed them to get more work done to focus on other things like projects and improving other areas of the department,” McCabe says.
Getting from BMET I to any level in the HTM universe comes about by taking control of your career and making yourself a valuable asset to your organization.
“For me personally, I have always worked to make my boss’s job easier; if that meant taking on a project, or running a PM list for the team or organizing a team activity I would do it. Some might say that is ‘kissing up,’ but in the end, it helped me learn and expand my knowledge base, which then led to promotions,” Fedele says.
Be proactive and don’t forget to make the boss’s job easier.
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