One of the most difficult challenges facing the HTM field is attracting professionals to join the profession. This is also true of educators trying to recruit students into their HTM programs. This isn’t a unique challenge facing only HTM. I find it to be the case for most of our college programs and for the same reasons that I will mention in this article. When the economy is strong and unemployment is low, we have difficulty recruiting.
For the past several years, AAMI has put considerable effort into helping address this issue. With the help of HTM leaders in the field, AAMI has developed videos, promoted the profession in radio interviews, created brochures for all of us to distribute at career days and developed an IamHTM.org website where many free resources are located. AAMI has also become the lead society for accrediting HTM educational programs within the Technology Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (TAC-ABET). In addition, AAMI has created a task force within the Technology Management Council to continue to focus on the issue, and recently hosted a Future Forum IV event that focused on the challenge of recruiting HTM professionals into the field.
I had the privilege to participate in the Future Forum IV event, a two-day event held at AAMI headquarters where constituents from AAMI membership were well represented. It was remarkable to meet with people from all areas of HTM and to put our heads together to further our work toward a solution to this problem. It became clear that there is no simple solution to the problem and it will take some thinking outside of the box to be successful.
Initially, I thought that if we could all recruit a large number of students into our programs we would be able to solve this shortage of HTM professionals. The shortages that I’m really referring to are technicians at the associate and bachelor’s degree level. Now, I’m not sure that this is the solution.
In my experiences in the community college environment, most students do not want to relocate. Many are mid-life career changers, have spouses with jobs locally and have children in school. This becomes a big challenge. If I was able to recruit a large number of students into my program, I wouldn’t be able to place all of them into co-operative education positions while they are in school. There wouldn’t be enough open positions locally for everyone. In my opinion, if graduates would be willing to relocate, they would have it made. However, that’s not generally their preference.
It became clear in the Future Forum IV meeting that most educators around the country are experiencing the same problem with students not wishing to relocate. We need to figure out a way to enable many more HTM programs to open in areas without programs close by. The first thing to remember is that HTM programs are expensive with equipment requirements and other expenses. Most HTM programs tend to be small in comparison to other programs within the college. College administrators are generally not interested in funding programs like this. For a long time, I have been thinking that maybe AAMI can help in that area.
I’m currently talking with AAMI University about offering HTM courses online that could be add-on courses to programs that are offered at many more colleges than have HTM programs. We are in the beginning stages of trying to figure out if this is feasible. My suggestion is that if a local college offers an electronics or electro-mechanical program they could have any interested students also take the AAMI HTM courses that would give them biomedical instrumentation experience. There are many colleges with electronics-related programs that do not have an HTM program. I also recommend that these students partner with a local hospital to do laboratory experiments that AAMI would provide as part of the course work. I would also like to note that there currently are colleges that offer HTM courses online for anyone to take.
There are hospitals and health care organizations that hire people without formal biomedical instrumentation experience. They have an electronics and troubleshooting background, but lack formal training in HTM. This online arrangement from AAMI would be helpful to this group.
I feel that educating HTM professionals is an area where we have always looked at new and innovative ways to provide students with needed information.
We have to be open to new ideas and be willing to use new modalities for delivering instruction. We also have to be willing to use them to recruit for our field.
Remember, when we go to work each day we have the opportunity to change people’s lives for the better. When we recruit someone new into our field, we are changing their life for the better. We are helping them to embark on a rewarding and exciting career that they can be excited about for years to come.
– Steven J. Yelton, P.E., CHTM, is a senior HTM engineer at the Christ Hospital Health Network in Cincinnati, Ohio and is an HTM professor at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College. He is a member of AAMI’s Board of Directors executive committee, AAMI Foundation Board of Directors, former chair of AAMI’s Technology Management Council (TMC), chair of AAMI’s HTAC Committee, Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), Board of Delegates and Board of Directors, World Seniors Golf Federation.
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