We planned to be totally back to normal as far at college this fall. Well, that didn’t happen exactly!
As I write this column, we just began our fall semester at Cincinnati State with an “almost back to normal” approach. We resumed our pre-pandemic hybrid approach to our HTM courses. This means that we will have live (face-to-face or mask-to-mask) laboratory and review sessions with lecture being presented virtually.
We are happy to have “live” in-person classes and laboratories this semester and we haven’t had any serious issues so far. Our biggest challenges are with laboratory experiences and hospital visits. Since we are very close to students when conducting laboratory experiences, we must adjust the way that we interact with our students. This hasn’t been too much of an issue.
As part of our curriculum, we meet often at local hospitals in order to utilize their medical systems and equipment. I had a concern that this could be an issue because of COVID-19 protocols. We have been very diligent about following guidelines and it has worked out very well so far. We also feel that our students are gaining very unique experiences that hopefully are “once in a lifetime” for them.
I believe a hybrid education approach like this in the future will be a viable option and an addition. I emphasize the word option because, in my opinion, this method of presentation is best as an enhancement or addition to a live experience. We have been utilizing this hybrid approach for many years now. I have noticed that since students have become more accustomed to the “Zoom” type of meetings and classes, the outcomes of the educational experience have improved.
As I mentioned in my last column, one challenge that we all may have with this technology, is the significant expense of deployment. If a college, hospital or company has the production capabilities currently, it will be much more affordable. Our students are making the best out of the situation. As I speak to students, many if not most are telling me that they like this approach and the technology hasn’t been a problem. They say that now that they have done it for a while, they are finding it much more enjoyable. They also said that with this approach, they feel that they will be able to continue their education more easily after graduation.
We also went full speed ahead with our co-operative education (co-op) placements. We have more job openings than students right now. The employers have embraced our students’ willingness to return to work. We feel that this semester employers – both from hospitals and companies – are in a much better place to hire co-op students and engage them fully. As is always the case at Cincinnati State, we feel that co-op is an integral part of the educational program. Though we have hands-on laboratory experiences at the college, we rely heavily on our co-op employers to provide our students with real-world situations within the HTM world.
The hospitals in the Cincinnati area that I have talked with are feeling their way to bringing back staff to the “office.” Most are employing an approach where many workers are working from home if it is not completely necessary that they be on site. In many cases, they have found this approach to be very effective. In my area of HTM, most of the workers are on-site except for some of the IT staff. Some HTM managers are partly on site and partly working from home. We have honestly found that with the majority of our staff being on site, the managers tend to be on site also.
One unexpected positive outcome of the pandemic is virtual learning opportunities. Our students were encouraged to attend virtual conferences, attend webinars and to participate in virtual happy hours or networking sessions. Many of our students took advantage of these opportunities.
As I mentioned in my earlier column, AAMI is hoping to integrate some virtual experiences into it’s annual “AAMI Exchange.” These experiences will be designed to enhance, not replace, other opportunities within the Exchange. I feel that this could be a great benefit to those who may not be able to travel to the event live.
I have found that my students very much enjoyed their break this summer, they are very glad to get back to school and/or work.
As always, thank you very much for your efforts throughout this pandemic!
Steven J. Yelton, P.E. is a senior HTM engineer for a large health network in Cincinnati, Ohio and is a Professor Emeritus at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College where he teaches biomedical instrumentation (HTM) courses. He is the chair of AAMI’s board of directors, vice-chair of the AAMI Foundation board of directors, previous chair of AAMI’s Technology Management Council (TMC), chair of AAMI’s HTAC Committee and is an Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), Board of Delegates member.
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