By Steven J. Yelton, P.E.
I wrote my last column discussing how we are dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak. I had no idea that I would be writing my next column on COVID-19, except maybe to say how great it was to be past that now. Well, that didn’t happen. I’ll provide a bit of an update on how things are going from my point of view.
I’m writing this column in September. It will appear in November. Things haven’t changed that much at my college as far as how we are doing business. My classes are totally virtual this semester as they became last spring. Our students are required to do cooperative education (co-op) and we have lots of laboratory content online, so we are counting on that helping our students get the laboratory experiences that they so greatly need.
Given where the state of Ohio was with the pandemic in September, our classes for the spring semester of 2021 will be largely virtual. There is a possibility to have face-to-face laboratories with special permission from administration. My laboratory experiences, which normally occur at a local hospital, are not happening at this time.
I’m finding that my colleagues at the hospital, board colleagues, as well as students are getting accustomed to the “new normal” (which in my case is “virtual”) with respect to meetings, class meetings and collaborations. The idea of having meetings that last many hours are becoming commonplace. I have to admit that this isn’t my preference, but at least we are able to make progress under difficult conditions.
For many years, employers have asked that our graduates have experience with computer-based or remote learning. This could be virtual classes, a class that is presented via computer or even a remote class very similar to what we are doing now. Employers are always looking for a way to provide training for HTM staff in a cost-effective manner. They expressed to me that if a student becomes comfortable with remote learning while in school, they will be much more successful with on-the-job training that may be remote. Most of the hospitals that I deal with provide their HTM staff with as much live training and service schools as possible with a travel and training budget. Currently, my students are becoming very adept at virtual learning!
I mentioned in my previous column that another challenge that we have is placing co-op students in HTM-related positions. Some employers were able to retain all of their co-op students, but others were required to eliminate those positions for (hopefully) the short term. Some good news is that we are experiencing an upswing in the hiring of our cooperative education students. The hospitals are largely able to rehire co-op students that were on furlough throughout the summer and some were able to reopen eliminated positions. I have noticed that the employers who were able to retain co-op students are much better off than ones that didn’t for many obvious reasons.
I was and am still extremely impressed by how the HTM community has banded together to help everyone get through this troubling time. The AAMI online communities remain active with help and suggestions for dealing with every kind of situation that you could imagine. I wanted to mention this again and offer my thanks to all of my HTM colleagues.
Many of the HTM departments within hospitals are still experiencing partially remote operation, however they are moving back to the “local” arrangement. This was interesting to me from the standpoint of having to touch the equipment to fix it for the most part. This is obviously still true for the most part. I’m seeing that even with the movement to the previous way of doing business in the hospitals, I would not be surprised if some of the changes stick. At my hospital, we have seen some improvements as a result of COVID-19 changes that were made and that is a good thing.
One thing that is more important now than ever is recruiting for our field. We have experienced a slight decline in our HTM program enrollment at the college this semester. I have heard this same thing from some of my colleagues at other colleges. I know that there were some students who put off college in the fall semester because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I understand this to some extent for students who are going away to school. The vast majority of our students are local since we are a community college. I felt that for all practical purposes, our enrollment should have been significantly higher in the fall. Students could stay home and attend a community college and get some of their credits out of the way at a lower cost or maybe even try a technical program such as HTM. In our case, this really didn’t happen. As I mentioned, we also didn’t see an increase in the HTM program. As always, there are lots of good paying jobs available and it’s to all of our advantage to support our field.
Please, during these trying times, try to help recruit for our field.
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 Delegate to the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of TechNation or MD Publishing.
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