First, the good news. After a couple of years of declining enrollment, our department has seen a pretty good uptick in enrollment with the fall semester. With an incoming class of nearly 60 BMET students and an overall enrollment of over 130 students, we are very hopeful for the future.
Right as the semester began in late August, the BET club officers asked me if I would present at a club meeting about “professionalism.” A little hesitant at first due to the broad nature of the topic, I decided to dig in the best I could. I also invited other faculty members to join me for sort of a panel discussion. Usually these club meetings have about 20 to 30 members present (probably because they offer lunch) so my plan was to go around the room and ask for input on what professionalism for a Biomedical Equipment Technician might look like, discuss what it meant to me and the other faculty members present and then put it all together. Sounded like a good plan until we had over 50 people show up. I’m glad I had a plan “B.”
During my education, I had plenty of opportunities to research leadership and I have read and analyzed many books and articles on leadership and leadership styles, the difference between leadership and management, types of leadership (i.e. Servant Leadership), etc. But I can’t remember doing much on what it meant to be a “professional.” I thought I knew what it meant to me and I could point to people and examples and say “he or she is a professional.” But when it came down to defining it, exact words and meaning escaped me. So I went looking for answers … starting at the place where most old people go for answers … that storage depository for antique documents, the library. From there, I searched periodicals and the Internet for articles relating to professionalism.
The Merriam Webster definition for Professionalism is: the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person; or the following of a profession (such as athletics) for gain or livelihood. For me, that was rather vague. Looking around a bit more, I found an excellent article/post on LinkedIn by Daniel W. Porcupile, a retired Marine and management consultant, which broke down professionalism into 7 components. Since he wrote that article in 2015, it has had over 50,000 views. I believe it is a good start for our BMET students. So for the meeting, I took his main points and customized them to fit the Biomedical Equipment Technician profession. I have shortened the presentation somewhat for this article because of space limitations.
The first component of professionalism, according to Porcupile, is Specialized Knowledge. Think about it, HTM professionals have a very unique knowledge and skill set. Very few people even think about how medical devices operate or what they do, much less analyze, troubleshoot and repair them. Students pick up the first small part of their specialized knowledge by earning that degree. They must continue to build upon that specialized knowledge for the rest of their careers in order to remain successful and relevant.
The second component Porcupile lists is Competency. BMETs must be able to do what is expected of them and do it well, without making excuses. They find solutions to problems and have the ability to use resources to complete the job. They continue to build expertise in their own areas of responsibility as well as expand their horizons into other areas.
Honesty and Integrity are Porcupile’s third component of professionalism. BMETs do the right thing. They treat medical equipment as if they or their family members will be the next people to use it. They do not take shortcuts when doing PMs or repairs, even if it means taking a little longer to do it right and return the device to the customer in a more pristine condition than when they received it. They do not show up late for work or leave early. And if they do not have the expertise necessary to do a job, they ask for help. They keep their word and their commitments sacred.
Porcupile’s fourth component of professionalism is Respect. BMETs treat everyone in the health care facility with respect. This means saying hello to the janitorial staff with the same enthusiasm and respect shown to doctors and administrators. This means being polite to everyone.
The fifth component, according to Porcupile, is Accountability. Own your mistakes and learn from them. Do not blame others for your shortcomings or make excuses when your performance doesn’t match your intentions.
A very important part of professionalism for BMETs is Self-Regulation. The ability to retain your composure under pressure is critical. Keeping calm, cool and collected when dealing with irate customers under tense conditions, separates the professional from the amateur.
And last but not least, Porcupile includes Image. Image plays a big part in how the BMET is perceived in the workplace. This has been harped on for years in our community and it is still key for our success. The tech with the wrinkled, disheveled look and a mustard stain on his shirt isn’t going to fare well in our business. As my colleague, Victor Fowler, tells our students, that first impression is key and you don’t often get a second chance to change it. We encourage our students to watch their body language, their speech, their manners and their dress. While all of these are important all of the time, they are critical when a technician is brand new to the work place.
This is a shortened version and I’m sure it is not complete. Many of you probably have several other components of professionalism that I missed but I thank Daniel W. Porcupile for coming up with an excellent list of teaching points that we can use with our students.
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