As I write this column we are in the middle of the 2022 spring semester and look forward to what will be in store for the fall semester. Our enrollment for spring 2022 was significantly lower that we had hoped. There are several factors that contributed to that. Some are positive and some are not.
We had several students elect to either start or continue full-time cooperative education experiences in the spring semester. Hospitals were aggressively seeking students to fill positions that were going unfilled due to COVID-19 and students were anxious to start their co-op experience. This is positive for the student and the employer, but now we are trying to develop a plan to accommodate them back in school in the fall.
We were able to continue to deliver our HTM courses under our usual “hybrid” model where the students meet partially face-to-face and partially virtual. Our students are accustomed to the virtual learning experience. I feel it has worked well during the COVID-19 pandemic; however it became apparent that our students thrive when given the opportunity to meet at least partially face to face. We are now very confident that we will be “back to normal” in the fall. I would like to thank all of the companies and organizations who have made their online training and resources available to college students free of charge.
The last couple of years have enforced my belief that HTM courses “should” or even “must” be face-to-face at least partially. Except for the very heart of COVID-19, we had face-to-face laboratories and utilized the local hospitals for many other laboratory experiences such as laboratory, cath-lab and imaging. During that short time during the pandemic, we ran all of our HTM courses virtually. We were able to continue to have cooperative education students hired at local hospitals throughout the entire time. Our students continued to get that important hands-on training for which I’m very thankful.
As many of you know, I work at a college and a hospital. The management staff at our hospital is encouraged to work from home whenever possible. Many departments have staggered when managers are at the hospital. They will generally have fewer managers on-site at a given time. The HTM department has gradually migrated back to being mostly on-site at this time.
Recruiting for our field is now more important than ever. As I mentioned, we have experienced a decline in enrollment in our HTM program at the college this semester, I continue to hear this same thing from some of my colleagues in other colleges.
As I read Joie Marhefka’s, “The Future” article on “Women in HTM”, I re-examined our enrollment and recruiting efforts. As far as the engineering technology programs, the HTM program has a relatively large number of women enrolled. The civil and environmental programs are the others which attract women. I carefully say “relatively” since, like Joie our number of women is around 10% in general.
We saw an uptick in enrollment by women in the past. This happened mainly when our nursing program was on a waiting list. At times, we had a 2- to 3-year waiting list to get into nursing, so some students elected to enter the HTM program. Many of these students were women. The reason that I bring this up at this time is because of the stress, strain and burnout that nurses are experiencing with COVID-19 in hospitals. I wonder if nursing programs will have a difficult time recruiting new nursing students. I also wonder if some of these prospective students may elect HTM programs in order to follow a career in health care that isn’t as patient focused as nursing.
We are confident that there were some students who put off college in the spring semester for multiple reasons and they will return to school. I still have a concern that prospective students may be afraid to enter the health care field in any capacity. I ask that we all strive to get the message out that there are lots of good paying jobs available and it’s to all of our advantage to support our field. We need to make sure that we emphasize that with proper precautions, we have been able to perform our duties in a safe and effective manner.
Please, stay safe!
– 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 and Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), Board of Delegates member.
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