By Steven J. Yelton, P.E.
As I often mention, educators are all striving to make the best HTM program possible. We want our program to be great! We also are generally very open to help in achieving this goal. Perhaps our greatest challenge, however, is supplying enough qualified graduates to fill needed positions. One innovative approach to meeting this need is an apprenticeship program proposed to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) by AAMI. This originated as a proposal by Maggie Berkley at the AAMI Exchange “shark tank” session and is being developed by Danielle McGeary, vice president of HTM at AAMI along with a group of HTM volunteers.
“With the pipeline of HTM professionals being so small, AAMI wants to create as many entry points to the field as possible. The proposed BMET Apprenticeship, if approved by the DOL, will do just that while ensuring these new professionals meet a minimum level of competency and quality,” says McGeary.
As I have written before, I am a strong advocate of the internship or cooperative education component of education. I feel that this should be required for a student to graduate from any program. I like to mention this whenever I have the opportunity. I feel this is not only key to any program, but it is ultimately an area that requires all of us in HTM to work together. I feel that a true strength of the apprenticeship program is the hands-on work requirement. A large amount of the training for the apprentice is hands-on or on-the-job training.
It is also important to mention that this apprenticeship is an entry into the field and the hope is that the graduates of the apprenticeship program will continue into a degree program.
This is one of three initiatives that are in the works at AAMI that I feel will help to fill the void of qualified HTM technicians as well as help enhance existing programs. I thought it would be helpful to provide a progress report on these projects and explain how they are related.
AAMI has an existing document entitled “Core Competencies for the HTM Entry-Level Technician” which has served as a guideline for many of the educational documents and initiatives that have been proposed. The three projects I mentioned that AAMI has in development are: the apprenticeship program mentioned above, an entry-level certification for HTM technicians and a standard on HTM education.
This standard is still in the development stages, but we hope it will become a great resource for educational institutions and hospitals, as well as for technicians to evaluate educational opportunities. The Healthcare Technology Accreditation Committee (HTAC) of which I am a member has been working with Patrick Bernat, director of HTM standards at AAMI, to develop this standard. “The HTM education standard AAMI is developing is yet another building block in the increasing professionalization of the HTM field,” Bernat says. “HTM training and education – whether it takes place in the classroom or in the clinical setting – will benefit from increased standardization. This standard sets out to achieve that goal.”
Another HTM related project that is spearheaded by McGeary and M.J. McLaughlin of the AAMI education department is the entry-level certification for HTM technicians. “The HTM entry-level certification is exciting since it gives emerging HTM professionals an opportunity to achieve a formal certification right from the start of their career. This new certification gives these new HTM professionals a mechanism to show employers they meet a minimum knowledge competency when looking for a job. Achieving this certification will also show new HTM professionals the value of professional certification which they will hopefully carry with them throughout the rest of their career.” McGeary says.
This certification is intended to be less rigorous than the Certified Biomedical Equipment Technician (CBET) certification but will provide an entry-level credential for technicians entering the workforce. The hope is that the collaboration among the groups working on the apprenticeship, the standard and the certification will greatly complement and enhance each individual project.
As you may know, AAMI is the lead society within the Technology Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (TAC-ABET). In this role, AAMI helps guide TAC-ABET with items related to the criteria used for accrediting college Healthcare Technology Management (HTM) and similarly named programs. These could be associate or bachelor’s degree programs.
All of the projects that I have mentioned above work together to build a highly qualified HTM technician. The beauty of it is that there are multiple ways to enter the HTM field – right out of high school as part of the apprenticeship program, through an associate degree program or through a bachelor’s degree program. Regardless of how an HTM professional enters the field, there are ample opportunities for advancement.
I hope you all consider taking part in many of these programs as they could be a great resource for your department. We will keep you posted on our progress and hopefully you will see announcements coming out soon.
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-elect of AAMI’s board of directors, 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 a member of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), board of delegates.
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