In the hospital system where I am a consultant, our many values include continuing education, mentoring and a defined onboarding process. In a survey from a year or so ago, we found that many of our technicians wanted these goals to be better structured for them. We very quickly set out to do just that. In discussing this with colleagues, we also found that this is a pretty common problem among HTM departments. The comment that we heard most frequently was: “We try very hard but sometimes we simply don’t have the time to do it all.” We understand this completely and have similar concerns. We feel that this is important enough that we decided to incorporate it into our Medical Equipment Maintenance Program (MEMP) and our evaluation process of employees.
One goal of the onboarding process is to assign a mentor to the new employee. When deemed appropriate, that same employee should also become a mentor.
Although it is a work in progress, we are making strides in aligning all of our training-related processes toward a common goal. I believe that making something like this work requires buy-in from the staff and upon investigation found that it could be linked to evaluations, raises and advancement. Our staff will appreciate having this clearly outlined for them so that they have a goal to work toward.
In updating job descriptions, we will include mentoring as a requirement alongside traditional items like how well they repair assigned equipment and continuing education. Everyone from the Biomed I on up will be expected to mentor another employee. You may question whom a Biomed I would mentor? In our case, it is usually a co-operative education student (co-op) or intern. This is currently in place formally with respect to our co-ops and interns since it is usually a requirement for the educational program at their college. It is in place for other employees, but not totally formalized.
Since this will be tied to advancement and raises, our hope is that technicians will seek out someone to mentor and someone to mentor them as opposed to the opposite. When a Biomed I wishes to fill a Biomed II position, we will ask: who do you have in mind to fill your position? The Biomed I should have relevant experience and can potentially fill the Biomed II position as well as provide a well-mentored person to be considered for the Biomed I position being vacated. We consider this a win-win. Also, during a yearly evaluation, the employee will be asked to update their supervisor on how both of their mentorships are going (the mentoring that they are giving and receiving). With this system in place, the entire department will participate in succession planning.
Mentorship benefits succession planning in the hospital community as a consistent source of prepared employees to move into new or newly open entry-level and advanced positions. When executed properly, recruiting costs are lowered and filling positions is completed quickly.
It is common for our technicians, engineers and supervisors to interact with each other to organize mentorship arrangements. An example would be when a technician who wishes to move into an imaging position might ask to be mentored by one of our imaging engineers. This mentorship would involve working together, attaining training and filling in when necessary. If an imaging position becomes open, we would hopefully have a qualified and trained person. Even if no position comes open quickly, we have a good person available for backup.
The focus of this column is the future as it pertains to education. I have mentioned in the past that I feel that all of us in the HTM field are teachers and students simultaneously. I feel that one of the things that drew me into this field is the fact that since I began my career, I started learning new things and haven’t stopped yet. I feel that if you allow it to be, HTM is never boring and always exciting. The mentoring concept discussed in this column makes us all a mentor (teacher) and mentee (student) at the same time.
As you can see, there are many benefits to this program for the hospital, the HTM department and the employees.
Steven J. Yelton, P.E., CHTM, is a senior consultant for HTM in Cincinnati, Ohio and is a Professor at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College where he teaches biomedical instrumentation courses. He is the secretary-treasurer of AAMI’s board of directors, AAMI’s Foundation Board of directors, chair of AAMI Technology Management Council (TMC), chair of AAMI HTAC Committee and is a member of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), board of delegates.
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