By Steven J. Yelton, P.E.
I’m writing this column as I complete my grades for the fall 2020 semester and prepare for the spring 2021 semester. Our fall 2020 semester started in September and ended December 12, 2020. Our enrollment was down for that semester partly because students thought that they would let the pandemic run its course and then they could start in the spring semester on January 19, 2021 with things back to normal. At the time that may have been a good thought, but things are far from normal.
As I write this column in December of 2020, our enrollment at the college is rebounding somewhat. It is still not where it would normally be at this time. We have made the decision that the HTM courses will remain totally virtual for the entire spring semester. The COVID-19 numbers in Ohio were very high in December and are not expected to drop quickly enough for us to consider face-to-face courses. If they are totally necessary, we can appeal to the administration for a waiver to have some on-campus classes. We normally hold classes online, on campus and in the hospital. Right now, on-campus classes are difficult and in-the-hospital classes are nearly impossible.
I’m a firm believer that HTM courses “should” or even “must” be at least partially face to face. Up until this point, we have always had face-to-face laboratories and utilized the local hospitals for many other laboratory experiences such as cath lab and imaging. During the pandemic, we have run all of our HTM courses virtually. We have continued to have cooperative education students hired at local hospitals throughout this time. Our students continue to get that important hands-on training for which I’m very thankful.
We have been running HTM courses via a “hybrid” model (where the students meet face-to-face and virtually) for many years. When the pandemic hit, we moved to totally virtual classes. Our students are accustomed to the virtual learning experience, so it has worked fairly well without much disruption. Our goal is now a return to “back to normal” for the fall 2021 semester. I would like to thank all of the companies and organizations that have made their online training and resources available to college students free of charge.
One concern that we are facing from our students is their fear of working in a COVID or even a post-COVID environment. As many of you know, I work both at a college and a hospital. The management staff at our hospital has encouraged employees to work from home whenever possible. Many departments have staggered when managers are at the hospital. They generally have fewer managers on-site at any given time. The problem that we are facing is with technicians who have to be on-site constantly.
Some full-time technicians are having a difficult time dealing with the COVID-19 working environment. For the most part, technicians must be on-site to complete scheduled maintenance and corrective maintenance on medical systems. Most hospitals are aware of this and are working hard to help alleviate some of the stress.
As I mentioned before, many of the HTM departments within hospitals are still implementing partial remote operation where technicians are dispatched from home. Most have the intention of moving back to the “local” arrangement or a modified version of the “local” arrangement when it is safe to do so. Instituting a modified version is not too surprising to me in that we have found some things, that were not even thought of in the past, are very effective. We have seen improvements as a result of COVID-19 changes that were made.
Recruiting for our field is now more important than ever. As I mentioned, we have experienced a slight decline in enrollment in our HTM program at the college this semester, but hopefully we will make up for it in the spring and summer semesters. I have heard this same thing from colleagues at other colleges.
We know that there are students who put off college in the fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic. My concern is that students may now be afraid to enter the health care field in any capacity. As always, there are lots of good paying jobs available and it’s to all of our advantage to support our field. We need to make sure that we emphasize that with proper precautions, we have been able to perform our duties in a safe and effective manner.
Please, stay safe!
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 and Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), Board of Delegates member.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of TechNation or MD Publishing.
*By entering your email address, you agree to receive emails regarding TechNation Magazine, Webinars, and Exclusive Promos.
© 2021, TechNation Magazine. Site designed by MD Publishing, Inc.