Summer was certainly a time for students to take a break. Many students use the time to relax, to earn money for the upcoming school year or to travel. While most professionals don’t enjoy the same summer and holiday breaks as students, these are still popular times to take a vacation or two. While I certainly encourage relaxation (especially after such a crazy year), I put together a list of suggestions for anyone who might want to do something to improve or maintain their skills during a break or vacation.
One way to improve or maintain skills during a break is by volunteering. I’ve had students volunteer in HTM departments during the school year in previous years. These students get the opportunity to shadow biomeds while helping out with tasks around the shop. Participating in something like this over the summer is a good way to keep up or improve skills while learning more about how HTM departments work and making contacts in the field. Even if a volunteer opportunity in HTM is not available, volunteering in another role in a hospital would be helpful for a student to better understand they layout and overall workings of a hospital environment. It would be worthwhile to look for opportunities to volunteer at clinics or nursing homes as well. For students, job shadowing – spending a few hours to a few days with biomeds in different hospitals or other employers – would also be a good way to spend some time over the summer.
Another way to volunteer your time, help others, practice your skills and experience something different would be to go on a mission trip. Hospitals in many lower-income countries have a great need for working medical equipment, which is necessary for diagnosing and treating patients. Hospitals that have older equipment in need of repairs or new, often donated, equipment that needs to be installed often lack technicians who are trained to maintain this equipment. HTM students and professionals can volunteer their time through a number of different organizations that conduct mission trips. In addition to working on technical skills, this is a great opportunity to give back and help people in need. At the same time, it is a chance to visit a new place.
For college students, summer can be a good time to catch up on a class, take a class to lighten the course load in the next term or take an additional elective that might be helpful in the field.
Various networking and cybersecurity classes would be very helpful in today’s health care environment, both for current students and for those working in HTM. For professionals, a CBET review course or a network certification course are good non-degree options.
A vacation is also a great time to attend an HTM conference. While not directly working on technical skills, conferences provide a great opportunity for continuing education, seeing the newest technologies in the field, getting updates on current issues and meeting others who work in the field. Conferences, like the upcoming MD Expo in Las Vegas, also give professionals a chance to share their expertise by giving presentations or participating in networking sessions.
If attending a conference is not in the cards, many webinars are available to broaden knowledge of various topics from new devices to regulatory issues.
Another way to give back to the field during a break is by helping to increase the visibility of HTM and promoting careers in the field. This could be done by giving a presentation to a class or a group of career changers or by leading an activity at a camp. This is a good way to spark interest in the field, which hopefully will help to alleviate the shortage of candidates to fill HTM jobs.
Of course, the most recent summer break is over. I hope each of you found some time for fun as well as to relax and recharge! And, I hope that you consider one or more of these suggestions as you start to plan for your next break or vacation.
Joie N. Marhefka, Ph.D., is the biomedical engineering technology program coordinator at Penn State New Kensington.
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