I have been teaching biomedical engineering technology (BET) at Penn State New Kensington (PSNK) for five years. During that time, I have often been the only female in the classroom. In fact, of the 51 students who have graduated over those five years, only four – 8% – have been women. This reflects what I see in the hospitals I visit – the vast majority of the biomeds are men.
I find it somewhat surprising that a health care related field does not attract more women. While a growing number of women have been entering the field in recent years, it is still mostly men. There are some challenges and obstacles that still exist for women in the field. Healthcare technology management (HTM) is a rewarding career for anyone, regardless of gender, and qualified candidates are in high demand to fill biomed positions. Perhaps recruiting more women into the HTM field is one way to help fill some of these vacancies.
In order to better understand the benefits, challenges and over all experiences of women working in HTM, I asked a few alumnae of the PSNK BET program to share their thoughts about being a woman working in HTM. These ladies work in a variety of different roles in different organizations. Justine Rojeski, CBET, a 2015 PSNK graduate, is currently a senior clinical engineering technician with Allegheny Health Network. Rachel Lojas, a 2016 PSNK graduate, is an XR/MRI/VL/CT customer engineer II with Canon Medical Systems USA Inc. Watipaso Kumwenda, another 2016 graduate, is currently on leave, but previously worked as a manufacturing technician and manufacturing engineer at Fresenius Kabi.
Each person who I spoke with is currently the only female technician in her shop. However, one did mention that she previously worked in a shop with another woman, and that they worked well together, as did that whole shop.
Two of the people I spoke with answered that they did not personally face any particular challenges or obstacles working in HTM that are because they are women, although one did indicate that she has heard stories from other people about bad experiences, which is unfortunate. The third said that she did experience some prejudice from fellow employees but nothing that was impossible to overcome. Lojas, who works on imaging equipment, added that she sees being a woman as an advantage when it comes to interfacing with radiology technicians because most of them are women who are thrilled when a fellow female comes in to work on their equipment.
All three answers to this question were similar – absolutely! Rojeski stated that it is generally a stable job in a climate-controlled environment that offers benefits and a decent salary. She also mentioned that there is room for movement within the field, and not everyone’s career path is the same. Lojas recommends a career in HTM because the health care field is always growing. She said that there will always be a need for creative-thinking individuals to create, improve, install and repair the diagnostic equipment used every day in hospitals. Kumwenda believes that a career in HTM is fantastic for anyone who likes to keep moving and appreciates working with their hands and providing service. She added that she enjoys being able to solve problems each day while working as part of a team. She stressed how satisfying she found it to work on a device and hand it back to a nurse or customer at the end of the day knowing that it would be used to help a patient.
Rojeski offered some good advice to women – and really to anyone – pursuing a career in HTM. “Just try to be the best biomed you can be. Focusing on challenges based on things out of your control will put you in a bad head space. Stay positive, work hard,” she said. Kumwenda summarized her thoughts, reiterating that HTM is a great career choice for anyone looking for something different and challenging but extremely rewarding. Finally, Lojas stressed the importance of promoting this amazing field full of great career opportunities to young women (as well as young men) who are interested in the health care, science and technology areas.
Overall, HTM provides opportunities for a rewarding career, regardless of gender. Although there are few women working the field, many of those do find it to be a satisfying career and would recommend it to other women (or men) who are starting their careers or looking for a change. I want to say “thank you” to the ladies who provided input for this article!
Joie N. Marhefka, Ph.D., is the biomedical engineering technology program coordinator at Penn State New Kensington. 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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