In the age of the Internet, when everyone and every database can be connected and accessed, the opportunities for learning are abundant. Anyone with an Internet connection can enrich their knowledge and skill set from sources around the world or in their backyard. While the classroom remains the quintessential place to expand one’s knowledge, the computer chair or easy chair will suffice as well, with a Wi-Fi connected device or a home PC.
Whether in a college classroom, technical school or online, training helps further one’s knowledge, improves a professional’s value to an employer and adds to an HTM professional’s technical skill set.
It all goes to the bottom line of professional competency and can aid in career growth.
Whatever the venue for training, there should be a recognized standard according to Caldwell Community College Program Director, John Noblitt, M.A. Ed., CBET.
“With AAMI publishing the core curriculum standard for biomedical education, this allows potential students to make sure that the education they receive meets industry standards,” he says. “These standards are also useful to employers, as they can tell if a college has implemented the standard and what information is being covered in a potential employee’s educational track.”
“As the last several years has created an explosion in biomedical programs, some form of standard needs to be implemented, and I thank AAMI for leading the charge on that front,” Noblitt adds.
“With many for-profit educational outlets implementing biomedical programs, it’s good to know there is a standard which they should be following. Over time these standards will be invaluable for both students and employers,” he says.
Noblitt says that the next step in this process is to have all programs, that have implemented these standards, become certified through ABET and AAMI.
Keeping the Classroom Relevant
Technical capabilities and troubleshooting acumen may be central to the training and education of a new HTM professional, but other skills play an important role as well. Those who develop the curriculum for HTM training programs need to tweak their offerings as the field changes.
“Early in the process of developing the program, I asked prospective employers what skills were important for them to see in potential employees. Without exception, employers bemoaned the lack of soft skills demonstrated by employees at every level,” says Giovanna A. Taylor, B.S., MHSA, director of the Biomedical Technology/Medical Devices program at St. Petersburg College.
“They pleaded with us to find a way to prepare students who not only had technical skills, but solid soft skills. The key skills they wanted prospective employees to demonstrate were: be on time, put down the cellphone, speak and write in full sentences, know how to work on a team, and have critical thinking/problem solving skills,” Taylor explains.
Giovanna says that the answer to the needs of the employers of HTM professionals was to include these non-technical, non-electronics elements in an academic program. Her program was developed with an advisory board of experts from the medical device industry, the local HTM biomedical association and clinical engineers from a local health care system.
“I immediately went to work designing a program that would help students develop these skills,” she says. “So how did we do this? First, we developed a course that focused solely on job readiness skills, such as resume writing, interviewing skills, job searches, portfolio development, etcetera. While this was a good start, I felt that soft skills needed to be embedded into the curriculum, so students are required to work on group projects, develop and demonstrate personal presentation skills through class assignments, volunteer at local hospitals, participate in professional organizations and attend professional conferences.”
The program also requires students to interview managers at local companies and invites guest speakers into the classroom to help students understand the realistic expectations of potential employers. There is a field experience element to the program as well, as part of a job readiness course.
Roger Bowles, MS, EdD, CBET, department chair/professor in the Biomedical Equipment Technology Department at Texas State Technical College, says that today’s HTM professional has many options for obtaining training and that more, in terms of a time commitment, isn’t necessarily better.
“Recently, I remember reading a discussion on one of the forums about which four-year degree a currently working BMET should pursue. I think the guy asked whether an IT-related degree would be better than an engineering technology degree (he already had an associates in biomedical equipment technology),” Bowles says.
“I believe the consensus was — and I totally agree — that diversification would be better than getting a more advanced engineering technology degree. I think biomeds these days have a variety of options for furthering their formal education,” he adds. “At least here in Texas, there are many state universities that offer degrees with online options that are much less expensive than the heavily advertised for-profit schools. Degrees in technical management, information systems, business, etcetera, are all good options depending on where the individual sees his or her career going.”
Changes seen in the HTM field, in addition to a focus on soft skills, have been the drivers for the evolution in the program that Noblitt directs.
“The program here at Caldwell has changed over the years by mostly adding ‘networking’ classes. However, I feel more focused training in networking needs to take place so the students see a more seamless transition from medical device troubleshooting to network troubleshooting and how much networking will affect their lives in their new career,” Noblitt says.
“We have also implemented some assignments and learning outcomes that will strengthen the students’ verbal and written communication skills,” he adds. “I often see students that are pretty good technically, but struggle with communication issues and these students have a hard time finding employment as they seem to be incapable of selling themselves in an interview.”
For students who are in the St. Petersburg, Florida area, the Waco, Texas area or the Hudson, North Carolina area, the programs at St. Petersburg College, Texas State Technical College and Caldwell Community College make for a solid classroom experience. The classroom remains the basis for HTM education and career entry.
Turning to the Internet
Advances in technology, and the Internet in particular, have revolutionized many approaches to training and educating participants with distance learning. One method that has been exploited productively, and that has garnered a lot of popularity in many occupations, are webinars.
AAMI University is a popular online destination for education and training related to the development and use of medical devices and technologies. The classes and curriculum have been developed in close consultation with industry leaders, regulators (including the FDA), The Joint Commission and subject matter experts, according to AAMI.
AAMI wants healthcare technology management (HTM) professionals, and other staff at health care delivery organizations, to know they can find a host of learning options, covering everything from medical equipment maintenance to sterile processing to the development of soft skills. To browse their course catalog visit university.aami.org
The course offerings include everything from “Quality System Requirements and Industry Practice” to “Radiation Sterilization for Medical Devices” to “Best Practice Recommendations for Infusion Pump-Information Network Integration.” The webinars, publications and on-demand courses are part of 151 such offerings.
Another good source for online training is ECRI Institute. Several times a year, ECRI Institute’s Health Devices Group conducts interactive web conferences on medical device-related topics of interest to the health care community.
These sessions combine advice from ECRI Institute’s experts with real-world insights from hospital guest speakers to help health care organizations tackle issues such as dealing with medical device safety hazards, making smart device purchasing decisions, and best practices for managing medical technologies. Recent topics include ECRI Institute’s Top 10 Health Technology Hazards list, Ebola, equipment preparedness and alarm-related problems.
TechNation’s Webinar Wednesday series is another popular option for remote learning.
“TechNation’s Webinar Wednesday series is now in its second year and the program has far exceeded my expectations,” says Jayme McKelvey, sales representative and webinar marketing manager at MD Publishing. “Our 75-minute webinars touch on pertinent information within the HTM Community. We seek out leading manufacturers, as well as popular HTM leaders, to help bring top-quality education to the series.”
McKelvey says that most of the webinars are eligible for 0.1 CE credits from the ICC. She says that the average attendance per webinar has grown 108 percent from last year.
“This means we are awarding certificates of attendance to more HTM professionals,” she says.
“Convenience is important to us too. Attendees can join our webinars from their computer, tablet or smartphone. We record our webinars and post the video to www.1technation.com should the 2 p.m. ET start time not be conducive to someone’s schedule,” McKelvey explains.
Just beyond the halfway mark for the year, the participation rate in the webinar series has already matched the total attendee numbers for 2014.
“That stat alone proves the popularity for Webinar Wednesday is rapidly flourishing. I am enthusiastically waiting to see what’s in-store for the rest of this year, as well as the future of Webinar Wednesday,” McKelvey says.
Attendees continue to give the series positive reviews.
“As busy as my schedule is, I always make time for this webinar series. It has provided me with valuable information – both new and refreshed – that I use on a regular basis,” one biomed wrote in a post-webinar survey.
In many professions, some type of certification training, and testing completion, indicates a thorough knowledge of the profession and often a commitment to continuing education. Certification is a part of the HTM profession as well and includes exam completion paired with work experience. The certifications are for biomeds, imaging engineers and laboratory equipment specialists.
Falling under the umbrella of professional development, the three primary certifications under consideration by HTM professionals include Certified Biomedical Equipment Technician (CBET), Certified Laboratory Equipment Specialist (CLES) and Certified Radiology Equipment Specialist (CRES). For those in management and quality assurance, there are also the Certified Healthcare Technology Manager (CHTM) and the Certified Quality System Manager (CQSM) designations.
The first three certifications cover understanding physiological principles, safe application of biomedical equipment and theory of operation.
Another source of certification training is from Noblitt. The BMET program director has developed the training to be available online.
“Currently there is a study process with many resources for the CBET certification exam. Within a year, there will be assistance for those seeking certification as a CRES or CLES and the new CHTM exam,” Noblitt says. “This training opportunity uses many resources to prepare individuals for the certification process with review materials, practice exams, podcasts, blogs and live review sessions with myself and other certification seekers.”
Noblitt says that it is his goal to have certification seekers commit to a six-month study process with the intensity of the review increasing as the exam date approaches. He says that he is a firm believer that cramming for the exam is a good way not to pass and that a slow steady review process will produce better retention of the exam preparation materials. His resource can be found at www.htmcertifications.com.
Organized group study, or self study, are the methods used by most HTM professionals to prepare for one of the exams. The benefits aren’t only a structured review of all the material, but also an overview that considers what is actually included in each exam.
“We (CABMET), do a review course for CBET, CRES and CLES. The test(s) has been updated to include an IT section of the test. We have updated our review to include a class dedicated to IT review. We also have meetings that cover technology advances. Some of our meetings will be available soon by Webex recording,” says Dave Scott of the Colorado Association of Biomedical Equipment Technicians and the go-to guy for CABMET’s study group.
“[The] CABMET Study Group is now in its second decade. We have been able to help close to 2,000 people get their certification in that amount of time,” Scott says. “We have had several members of our group get the highest scores on all three of the tests year after year. I think we are the leader in the industry for certification prep. Our results speak for themselves.”
Scott will lead a CBET Review course at the upcoming MD Expo in Las Vegas. The one-day session starts at 9 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. The interactive review session will help attendees brush up for the CBET test. This review will cover all aspects of the test.
The organization that created the CBET certification offers many resources online for every facet of each of the HTM-related certifications. AAMI’s website provides many resources that encompass everything you need to know about certification. A good starting point is www.aami.org/certification/.
One of the many benefits of local HTM associations and societies is the many training opportunities that exist for members. Sometimes those association groups are able to project their experience into the local market to provide training to others.
“Our organization is in the beginning stages of establishing an Education Advocacy group,” says Keith Waters, president of the Oregon Biomedical Association. “The committee will work with the local community college BMET students in bringing in current Healthcare Technology Management (HTM) professionals to give free lectures on different aspects of HTM that they do not get through their text or labs during class.”
Waters says that the committee will offer support to manufacturers of medical equipment by helping to fill seats in classes they offer locally.
“Such as when Philips comes to town with a monitor repair class,” Waters explains. “It is my hope that they communicate to the OBA and we can ensure that every seat is filled. This may increase the number of classes that are held locally versus having to travel to other cities.”
The MD Expo, hosted by MD Publishing, also offers training opportunities. The bi-annual conference includes an education component with wide-ranging topics and expert instructors. The MD Expo has proven to be a mainstay source of education for more than a decade. The next MD Expo is being held in Las Vegas this October. For more information, visit MDExpoShow.com.
MD Publishing offers educational sessions for medical imaging service professionals at the Imaging Expo.
The recent 2015 conference in Indianapolis was featured 24 continuing education credits approved by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT).
Of course, no story about HTM training would be complete without mentioning the Department of Defense BMET training program that is a tri-service effort.
The Medical Education and Training Campus Biomedical Equipment Training Program provides training for more than 400 military service members from the Army, Navy, Air Force and international students annually, according to those who run the program.
The basic BMET program is 41 weeks – 205 training days – in duration and is comprised of 12 courses. Each course is 17 days in length. Students receive eight days of didactic lecture followed by nine days of hands-on performance based training. Navy students complete an additional five courses totaling an additional 13 weeks of training, according to the program’s outline.
The BMET Program also offers 10 functional courses ranging from four to 20 days in length. These functional courses provide training on items such as computer-based medical systems, telemedicine systems, mammography systems, advanced radiography systems, ultrasound, advanced sterilization systems, radiographic acceptance procedures, computed tomography systems, medical maintenance management and advanced field medical systems.
For those getting their HTM training through the military, or the many civilian opportunities, the choices for furthering ones HTM education, or preparing for a career in the field, are extensive. Look for further refinements in the evolution of HTM training, whether you are sitting in a classroom or your easy chair.
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