I like to revisit what I consider to be an extremely important facet of HTM education –internships or cooperative education (co-op). Every couple of years, I feel that it is smart to take a look at how we are doing.
As we continue to navigate a future that seems to include COVID-19 and its variants, we need to remain mindful of this integral part (in my opinion) of any HTM educational program. At Cincinnati State, we are continuing to place cooperative education students and are working to enhance our placements in local hospitals. Interestingly enough, we still have more co-op jobs than we have students to fill them. Of course, this continues to be a topic of many other columns as well as a topic among HTM professionals looking to fill positions.
One situation that we are seeing in the Cincinnati area is that senior HTM professionals are choosing to retire at a somewhat accelerated rate. The feeling is that this is because of the stresses that COVID-19 has added to the workplace. HTM professionals who can retire, choose to do so. In the recent past, many of these people chose to continue working.
This is making the need for qualified graduates and cooperative education students even more important to employers. As I will later discuss, other opportunities are available for individuals wishing to enter the HTM field who may not be able to start through a traditional college program for whatever reason.
Luckily, our experience has been that as students are able to get vaccinated, they are less wary about working in a hospital environment. So far, our students are interested in attaining co-op positions and our co-op coordinators are working hard to make this happen.
In the co-op model, the student alternates periods of in-class education with on-the-job training generally at a hospital, OEM or third-party vendor. Some college programs place students at work sites in the summers between school years for an “internship.” Co-op is much less prominent.
If either model is executed properly, huge advantages exist for the educational institution, student and employer. This is also true of internships. Cooperative education assignments are generally paid, and internships are not, but this is certainly not written in stone. I have seen paid and non-paid versions of each.
The student graduates from the college program with significant practical experience in the HTM field. I feel that there is much learned on the job beyond just equipment repair. The student learns the importance of timeliness, work ethic, teamwork as well as equipment repair and the hospital environment. Many times the co-op or internship employer hires the student full time upon graduation. This is an advantage for the student and the employer. There are many instances when a student enters a field of study without truly knowing if this is really what they want to do for their lifetime career.
We have had many discussions about ways to encourage students to enter the HTM field and ultimately attain a position as an HTM professional. AAMI has launched its BMET apprenticeship program. As you may recall, this program originated to help with the shortage of qualified HTM professionals.
The AAMI program combines education with up to 6,000 hours of paid, on-the-job, competency-based learning. This is very similar in concept to the co-op and internship philosophy. Upon completion, apprentices receive a nationally recognized certificate. This is not intended to be the end to their formal education, but a starting point. The hope is that apprentices will continue their education at the college level. This is analogous to the notion that associate degree graduates would consider continuing their education at the bachelor’s degree level and so on.
I feel that everyone in HTM should encourage technicians at all levels to continue their education. We should encourage them to take advantage of any opportunity to further their education or training.
Another credentialing opportunity that HTM’s have is certification. I try to encourage all of my students, as well as colleagues, to pursue certification or professional registration. Part of the AAMI apprenticeship is the Certified Associate in Biomedical Technology (CABT). This is a certification for an individual planning to enter the HTM field. The CABT designation is non-renewable and is active for five years. After the five-year expiration date, the candidate will have the necessary experience to sit for the CBET or CRES exam. I feel that certification or registration is important for any HTM professional.
– 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, member of the AAMI Foundation board of directors, previous chair of AAMI’s Technology Management Council (TMC), chair of AAMI’s HTAC Committee and a previous member of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), board of delegates.
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