By Joie N. Marhefka
COVID-19 has changed work, schooling and everyday lives all over the world. Like most other universities, we have been teaching all our courses online since March. This has been particularly challenging in a hands-on program like our biomedical engineering technology major, and we quickly had to shift to virtual courses, including labs. We’ve found ways to teach PMs and troubleshooting using videos and manuals rather than actual equipment. We have conducted class lectures, discussions and guest lectures online using Zoom. Students were forced to use online platforms to collaborate on projects, and many changes had to be made since our classes were no longer able to meet in person. Resources from AAMI, GE and Fluke, as well as from other schools, have been extremely helpful in making this transition. While we are looking forward to returning to in-person classes in the future, this pandemic has clearly changed the future of education.
The future of continuing education for HTM professionals will certainly look different as well, at least in the near future. The present environment has changed the way professionals keep their certifications current and stay up to date with developments in the industry. Many conferences, including AAMI Exchange, which typically offer numerous opportunities for continuing education, have been cancelled. We have turned to virtual continuing education offerings such as webinars and online training courses. Other conferences have pivoted to virtual formats, providing various online learning opportunities for attendees. MD Expo replaced its large spring conference and trade show with a series of smaller HTM mixers, designed to allow for valuable continuing education, networking and vendor engagement to be maintained with reduced travel and fewer people in one place. In addition, other online training opportunities, which allow participants to stay current in the field without traveling or gathering in large groups, are being developed. For example, AAMI’s online summer education series provides education and training related to a number of important topics facing health technology, sterilization and regulations. Also, Innovatus Imaging recently launched a program to provide a virtual classroom with live webinars on ultrasound probes, MRI coils and more through Innovatus University and is partnering with local and regional HTM organizations to host virtual meetings for their members. TechNation also continues to offer the Webinar Wednesday Series. These are just a few examples of online continuing education opportunities that are being developed.
The pandemic has also forced us to change the way that we network with others in the field. Without being able to meet face to face at conferences and other meetings, tools such as LinkedIn and Zoom have become invaluable. LinkedIn provides an opportunity for making new connections with people in the field and for staying in touch with current connections. It is a great way to make introductions when in-person events are not possible. Zoom meetings have become a popular way to catch up with peers, as well as for mentors and mentees to stay in touch. I’ve even seen speed networking sessions, networking happy hours and other types of networking events conducted over Zoom. Online discussion boards, such as the AAMI connect forum, are another effective way to share ideas virtually.
The last few months have certainly brought big changes to education for HTM professionals, both at the college level and in continuing education. Many classes, trainings, conferences and other events were quickly pivoted to virtual formats. These changes, of course, were necessary due to the pandemic, but also created some opportunities that would not have otherwise been available – including learning from and networking with people who live far away. While I hope that we will regain some sense of normalcy in the not-too-distant future and will be able to return to some of our traditional, in-person education and networking, I believe that some of the increase in and emphasis on online learning and networking opportunities will remain and will help to shape the future of education.
Joie N. Marhefka, Ph.D., is the biomedical engineering technology program coordinator at Penn State New Kensington. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of TechNation or MD Publishing.
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