COVID-19 impacted almost everyone’s life in 2020 and continues to do so in 2021. Healthcare technology management (HTM) professionals are among those effected via the availability of parts, access to equipment, as well as continuing education and training opportunities. In this month’s roundtable article, TechNation invited experts from throughout the industry to share their insights regarding training and education during a pandemic.
Participants in the roundtable article are Injector Support and Service (ISS) Director of Procurement and Training Bruce Clarke, College of Biomedical Equipment Technology (CBET) Director Richard L. “Monty” Gonzales, Althea US Inc. Instructor/Modality Manager Michael Gossman, Siemens Lead Engineer/Instructor for Tri-Imaging Solutions Kenneth Hable and AAMI Vice President of Healthcare Technology Management Danielle McGeary.
Clarke: Beyond the obvious of applicability of the training to the career path of the attendee, I would say presentation type. Is the training a straight lecture (snore)? Does the training include any dialogue between the presenter and other attendees? Is there any hands-on aspects to the training? The training presented by Injector Support and Service (ISS) integrates the concept by Confucius of “Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me and I will understand.” into our training sessions. By implementing both the “show me” and “involve me” precepts into our training sessions, the attendees are far better prepared to work on injectors than those that sit in an audience, slipping in and out of lecture coma as the speaker rambles on and on and on …
Gonzales: Training and education need to align with professional goals. We have all heard the horror stories of students with tens of thousands of dollars in debt and limited prospects. HTM professionals considering investing in additional training and education need to ensure their investment, of both time and money, is aligned and consistent with their professional objectives. Training and education should be affordable, practical and focused like a laser on what they hope to achieve professionally.
Gossman: An excellent training program should include the following:
Hable: I believe there are two “most important things” to consider: 1) Will this training opportunity meet my goal for attending? and 2) What is the structure of the training? Make sure the training will actually meet the need intended. Time/resources are tight, and we are all asked to do more with less, so answering this prior to attending is important. The structure of the training is equally important. Is it lecture based, hands-on or a mixture? How much time is hands-on, and which training process best suits me or the staff I am looking to send?
McGeary: It is critical when seeking training to ensure the organization and individuals providing the training are creditable and credentialed.
Clarke: Depending upon the type of equipment, an update may never be required. Sort of like learning how to use velcro shoelaces. However, if the equipment is complicated and their contact with the equipment is infrequent, once or twice a year, then a refresher course of some kind should be required/offered every two or three years or if modifications are made to the equipment.
Gonzales: Advancements in the health care industry are occurring at lightning speed. If you are not actively seeking continuing education, training and professional development, you are likely falling behind. Education and professional development do not need to be expensive or time-consuming endeavors – they need to be focused and substantive. Engaging in the professional community through HTM and biomedical associations, participating in no- or low-cost webinars and, of course, engaging in formal accredited educational opportunities are all important elements of professional growth and development. The short answer is that HTM professionals should seek continuous self-improvement through professional development and education, both formal and informal.
Gossman: Biomeds need to keep abreast of all updates in their field. With the ever-changing medical environment, knowledge is the key to being successful. Know your field of expertise. When talking to the techs that operate the medical equipment, your knowledge of the equipment will instill confidence in the techs of your capabilities.
Hable: This depends significantly on their current knowledge base and experience. Many people believe that BMETs and imaging engineers should take as much training as possible. I strongly believe in a tiered approach to training. You learn the basics and general concepts in your basic education. Once you start to apply those basics to your daily work, you start to realize where your deficiencies are. Focus on selecting training opportunities that will build on your current skill set yet challenge you to rise to the next level of servicing the equipment. Training is not a static entity, it as a continuum that should progress throughout one’s career.
McGeary: BMETs should update their training whenever any major changes are made to existing or new equipment. It is also important that HTM managers have a process in place to ensure their staff is competent on all the equipment their staff is working on. If a competency is ever in question, retraining should occur.
Clarke: Health care facilities with well-trained biomeds save their facilities thousands of dollars simply by not calling in the OEM and relying on their own staff of in-house professionals. This is especially true when the facility is not near a densely populated area or city. Just the travel time charged by the OEM can sometimes be nothing short of highway robbery. One should also consider the downtime of the equipment and what impact the downtime has on patients and patient health. A trained biomed with the proper tools and parts can greatly limit lab downtime, have a direct impact to patient throughout and hence patient care.
Gonzales: One of the most intriguing parts of my job is having the opportunity to engage with HTM professionals across the country. One thing is clear, savvy and capable HTM departments save hospitals money, time and, most importantly, lives. Experience is critical, but education and training are equally important. Consider the next frontier of technological advancements in health care and ask yourself if your team is prepared. The technicians of the future need to be adept at repairing equipment and maintaining the networked devices they are responsible for managing. Investing in continuing education, training and professional development is both necessary and smart.
Gossman: Who better to service your equipment than the owner of the equipment, basically that is you. By having training on the equipment, you provide the following:
Hable: Equipment-based training is a critical component of lowering the total cost of ownership and decreasing operational downtime. In-house service teams with proper training and knowledge can provide nearly immediate on-site evaluation, develop a service plan and, at times, provide the repair before an off-site OEM or third-party vendor can be there. All of this equates to better inside and outside customer support in addition to lower costs.
McGeary: There are many ways that HTM training saves health care facilities money, but if I had to pick one, it would be by way of patient access. By having trained staff on-site, you have personnel that can respond immediately to medical equipment issues. Having staff available to troubleshoot and fix equipment on-scene avoids prolonged downtime, which directly helps to avoid cancelling patient cases or having to send patients to another place to receive necessary care. This increases patient safety and satisfaction which all directly impact health care costs.
Clarke: Many organizations are still placing travel restrictions on staff, limiting access to educational seminars offered at trade shows and access to off-site training provided by various vendors. Some training organizations have chosen to offer an online solution to this problem, while others have offered to take the training to the student and set up classes in the city of the facility in question.
Gonzales: Few industries were unaffected by COVID-19, educational organizations are no exception. Of course, every challenge also presents an opportunity. Concerns regarding COVID-19 triggered a seismic shift in education, overnight, online education and training became both immediately relevant and necessary. Although this shift was difficult for many, it has resulted in the expansion of opportunities for students and forced innovation in education. With regards to expectations, students and employers should expect as much, or more, from an online education as they do from a traditional program.
Gossman: If the proper Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines are followed, we have seen minimum impact with Althea US contrast injector training program. We have found by the ability to provide what our customers’ needs are, particularly on-site training, training can continue. There is no better training than a program that provides extensive hands-on opportunity.
Hable: The COVID-19 health crisis disrupted work patterns worldwide and employee training was especially hard hit. Many training opportunities moved to online presentation and/or interactive group/team-oriented training to try and meet employee needs. Many training providers have migrated to these models at this point and will continue to provide these opportunities as we move forward. It is my belief that although important in the moment, our industry cannot sustain itself solely on online training. For introductory, basic knowledge and theory-based training, online is a great option, but it will never be able to provide the true hands-on skills needed to perform the BMET and imaging engineers core functions without an in-person, hands-on component.
McGeary: Access to training has definitely been more difficult during the pandemic as travel has been greatly restricted, prohibiting trainers from coming on-site at hospitals and also leaving BMETs unable to travel due to organizational restrictions.
Clarke: Our strategic partnership with Maull Biomedical affords the student with the opportunity to receive not only quality Level-I PM training, but also our Level-II repair and service training. Injector Support and Service (ISS) is currently offering Level-II Injector Maintenance Training in beautiful Orlando, Florida the third week of each month.
Gonzales: The next frontier in education must include online, fixed-site and hybrid learning modalities. To keep pace with the industry and the pace of technology, education needs to be agile, adaptive and work closely with the industry partners we support. The days of education dictating the terms are over, the industry partners we serve and the students we support must come first. Educational consortiums, industry partnerships and a team-of-teams approach will allow us to innovate and advance at the same pace as those we serve.
Gossman: Never turn down the opportunity to receive training. Knowledge is the key to success. Take the training no one else wants and you will be successful. Find your niche in the biomedical field and learn everything you can.
Hable: An HTM career is one that should be seen as a never-ending need to get educated as new equipment and technology will be consistently developed. I also remember reading Bruce Clarke’s “Three Main Factors” reply in a previous roundtable article which really stuck with me and is something I consider with every teaching opportunity:
“The three main factors to be considered when it comes to training:
Thank you for the insight, Bruce. Life, as this industry is an evolution of learning. Much appreciated.
McGeary: While it is difficult to transition to start or alter a training program even at the best of times, COVID-19 has put many hospitals’ hands-on training, internship and volunteer programs on hold. HTM leaders are making the best of this situation, using the pause to rethink their programs. AAMI’s “HTM Training Guide for BMET Students, Interns, and Volunteers” was published in October of last year and can help by providing new and prospective HTM professionals, who are actively learning in the hospital, a broad overview of everything the profession entails.
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