There is a general belief among human resources (HR) professionals and hiring managers that the more value an employee brings to the job, the more knowledge they have and the more that they can be utilized by the employer, the more opportunity they might have for advancement and job security.
Certainly, there is no argument that self-development, continuous learning and an expanding skill set are all desirable qualities and traits in an employee, which makes that person more prized by leadership.
Many occupations allow a certification as the sole means of entry into that career. These certifications, which are awarded by professional organizations or other nongovernmental bodies, demonstrate competency to do the job and often require a qualifying exam.
Those who hold certifications, but not a professional license, can have varying levels of education from no high school diploma to advanced degrees.
The list of certifications for those in the HTM profession has grown over the past four decades and has expanded in recent years as connectivity and information storing have increased.
Consider that there was a time, not that long ago, when a biomed did not even consider a degree in network security. In more recent years, it provides a very useful skill set for a changing workplace.
Not all biomed jobs require a particular certification, but in an evolving landscape, the newer specialty degrees and certifications can prove valuable.
Is certification necessary? Is it a job prerequisite? Is it a career accelerator? These are fair questions.
Within the HTM profession, both for biomeds and managers, there are certifications that acknowledge a certain attained level of knowledge. As with all knowledge, there is an opportunity for the application of that information that bestows some additional value on the possessor of the certification.
In a profession that requires computer, electrical and mechanical knowledge, the universe of information is vast. There are several certifications that can attest to competency in those areas.
There are certifications that are right for both biomeds and managers. They can include CHTM, CBET, CRES or CCE. In the connected environment that health care facilities operate in, there are also certifications that represent a level of competence in network security. These can include CompTIA certification in Sec+, A+, Net+ and Cybersecurity+.
“Since certifications aren’t necessarily required for our industry, I’ve always used it as a way to distinguish one technician from another. I looked to get the CBET back when I was a tech as a way to distinguish myself from others with my same experience and also a personal goal. When the CHTM became a new certification, I looked to achieve this for the same reasons,” says Ken Mylar, MBA, CHTM, CBET, system director of Healthcare Technology Management (HTM) at Summa Health in Akron, Ohio.
As hiring managers forward their requirements to HR managers, and both review a pile of resumes, the candidate with the certification may stand out.
“I believe it is a matter of where one wants to go with their career. If you are a biomed and want to excel, the CBET is a great option; if you aspire to be in management, you should be preparing for the CHTM, etcetera,” says John Noblitt, M.A. Ed, CBET, BMET program director at Caldwell Community College in Hudson, North Carolina.
“All of the A+, Net+ certifications will be valuable as we continue to implement smart technologies and AI,” Noblitt says.
The employer’s wish-list is also front of mind for Bill Bassuk, president of the College of Biomedical Equipment Technology in San Antonio, Texas.
“As far as what certifications are right for you depends on the hiring institutions. Some institutions will only hire a biomed if they have their CBET. The same applies for the manager or director role in which case they will need their CHTM. In most cases, experiences are looked at more closely than the certifications. In some cases, institutions will hire the qualified biomedical professional and or manager contingent on passing their exam within the following year,” Bassuk says.
Bassuk also says that having A+ and networking certifications, such as cybersecurity, is a big plus because of the increasing need to be aware of the potential cyber threats to hospitals.
“As far as positions in management are concerned, most organizations prefer their candidates to have a formal four-year degree in business or similar with biomedical experience as well,” he adds.
Biomed students at Texas State Technical College hear about the benefits of certification also.
“We encourage our students to work toward the CBET and/or CRES, realizing that it isn’t an entry-level certification, but they can take the test after graduation. I recommend they wait about six months to a year after graduation to take the test, studying the whole time,” says Roger A. Bowles, MS, EdD, CBET, instructor of biomedical equipment technology at Texas State Technical College in Waco, Texas.
Bowles says that they also encourage students to get the A+ and Network+ certifications.
“They can get those while they are still students. If they achieve those before graduating, they will definitely have an advantage in their job search,” he adds.
Salim Kai, senior director of information services/biomedical engineering at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia says that technicians working in the HTM field should, at minimum, aim to get the CBET.
“For managers that are managing the day-to-day operation, and staff, annual budget, they should aim for the CHTM,” Kai says.
Kai breaks out some of the skill sets that are valuable for HTM professionals.
“Cybersecurity knowhow; how to patch devices and servers, how to secure medical devices, physical inventory for connectable devices, cyber risk assessment, investigating events related to cyber threats,” he says.
Kai also says that project management knowhow is a valuable skill. Know the anatomy of a health care project, how to track it, how to negotiate with vendors and contractors. One should also know how to create a project charter and budget and how to manage a project and stay on schedule.
“Continuous process improvement and Lean Six Sigma; being able to identify value drivers for the HTM department and show value to the hospital leadership,” Kai continues.
He says that data analytics is important to know. [To be] able to use data to show cost savings as in financial stewardship, improved customer satisfaction, and improved safety and quality.
Kai also suggests HTM professionals acquire:
Many of these skills can be enhanced through a certification program. The CompTIA Project+ certification teaches essential project management concepts that go beyond one framework or methodology. To take the exam, the candidate should have one year of knowledge of project life cycle, communication skills, project documentation and the ability to manage resources and stakeholders.
Credentials for HTM Professionals
Several certification exams can be taken through AAMI’s Credentials Institute (ACI). The granddaddy of the biomed certifications is the CBET, with the first exam administered in 1972. As of December 31, 2018, there were 4,099 holders of the CBET certification, including those who are retired and emeritus.
“The CBET and CRES certification programs have been developed and revised by HTM professionals with the goal of testing the minimum competencies for an HTM with at least four years of experience in the field,” says M.J. McLaughlin, AAMI’s director of education programming.
McLaughlin says that earning these certifications from ACI demonstrates a strong understanding of the core facets of the job, including anatomy and physiology; public safety in the health care facility; fundamentals of electricity and electronics; healthcare technology and function; healthcare technology problem-solving; and healthcare information technology.
“For new hires who don’t yet meet the eligibility requirements of the CBET or CRES, ACI will soon be launching their Certified Associate in Biomedical Technology (CABT) certification, which is geared towards individuals just entering the field with no prior education or experience. AAMI’s BMET101 training will launch at the same time, acting as a key preparation course for those seeking to earn the CABT designation,” McLaughlin says.
He says that on the other end of the career ladder is the Certified Healthcare Technology Manager (CHTM) designation.
“This management level certification is for HTMs who have had at least three years of experience in a supervisor or managerial role. A candidate for this designation would be someone who is responsible for planning and directing activities of other HTM professionals, monitoring their work and taking corrective actions when necessary. The CHTM exam covers two major areas in HTM: management of health technology operations and management of personnel,” McLaughlin adds.
AAMI also offers the Certified Industrial Sterilization Specialist certification, for those who understand the principles of sterilization process development, validation, control and management as part of the manufacturing of health care products, according to the organization’s website.
Network and Computer Focus
A complete understanding of how computers function is the first step in obtaining one or more of the specialized certifications in computers and network security.
These certifications and degrees can launch a career in cybersecurity or enhance a biomed’s knowledge to be used on the job in a hybrid role or as a subject-matter expert in a biomed department.
Knowing Linux and Unix, in addition to Windows, can help round out an HTM professional’s knowledge. Learning a programming language is also helpful.
“We are definitely in the digital age in today’s world. Cybersecurity should be at the top of everyone’s list. We need to all be aware of any equipment that is connected to a network or Bluetooth and understand the significance of keeping that data secure,” says Matthew Kenney, CHTM, director of HTM/biomed at Aiken Regional Medical Centers in Aiken, South Carolina.
Kenney says that in today’s world, everything is connecting to the electronic medical record (EMR). Understanding that more in-depth is very important with maintaining medical equipment.
One provider of both training and certification is the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). According to the association’s website, they have awarded more than 2.7 million certifications in areas such as cybersecurity, networking, cloud computing and technical support.
There are several certifications that are considered “core” that include IT Fundamentals (ITF+), A+, Network+ and Security+.
IT Fundamentals allows professionals to determine if an IT career is right for them. It provides a broad understanding of IT. It establishes an IT education framework for students as well. The exam focuses on essential IT skills and knowledge, according to CompTIA. It is a good basis for those who are considering pursuing a professional level certification such as A+.
The A+ requires the candidate to pass two exams and is a credential that establishes that the holder is someone who can think on their feet when performing critical IT tasks.
The core certifications prepare the professional for the next level of certifications.
Some of those more advanced certifications include CompTIA Security+, Cybersecurity Analyst certification, CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP+) certification. The PenTest+ is a newer certification, which became available in 2018 and is for cybersecurity professionals who are tasked with penetration testing and vulnerability management. How resilient is the network to attack?
An HTM professional may want to begin with some of the core offerings. A+ and Net+ are good building blocks for this purpose.
Another certificate program, started less than a year ago, is the Leadership in Health Care Privacy and Security Risk Management program, an eight-week course offered by the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin. The program says its purpose “is to develop leaders who can manage risk in American health care systems, protecting them from fast-evolving cybersecurity threats.”
“The role of HTM professionals has indeed expanded, and we’re struggling to keep pace. There are no signs of slowing down, so we might as well embrace and accept these changes. One area in particular that we are behind is in cybersecurity. It is imperative that our current and future HTMs get familiar and proficient in keeping our health care infrastructure healthy and protected from cyber-threats,” says Jojo Gonzales, BSHA, CBET, CHTM, A+, Net+, Sec+, Healthcare IT Certified, Lead BMET in the clinical technology department at Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center.
“I’ve been asked many times recently of my recommendations, and I’ve offered the same which is to get educated in cybersecurity either through formalized college-level education, specialized training or get certified. Here are a few certifications that are worth pursuing: CompTIA Security+, CPHIMS/CAHIMS, CISSP and CISM,” Gonzales says.
It seems counterintuitive to learn about how to be a hacker when you are attempting to help an employer strengthen a network against cyber threats, but thinking like the hacker offers insights.
“A basic military tactic discussed by Sun Tzu in ‘The Art of War’ is that we should ‘know thy enemy.’ So, when I was first learning about cybersecurity, I picked up a few books on hacking which gave me some insight to the methods and techniques the bad actors were using. This knowledge helped me understand the how, what and why of the various cybersecurity countermeasures,” Gonzales says.
Gonzales says that his recommendation is for BMETs to take the initiative to learn more about cybersecurity.
“There are countless resources available online either self-paced or formalized training. Community colleges offer basic computer, networking, and security classes; others even have certification preparatory courses for A+, Network+, Security+, Cisco, etcetera,” he says.
“Some local HTM associations offer them too. Attend as many webinars, symposiums and conferences as possible where they have plenty of educational sessions. And, if available, request these types of training from the employers. It’s a skill set that would not only benefit the employees but the organization overall,” Gonzales adds.
Some conferences HTM professionals should consider attending is the AAMI Exchange and the MD Expo. MD Expo is free for hospital employees, students and members of the military.
MD Expo strives to provide healthcare technology management professionals with a unique, intimate and rewarding conference second to none.
For more information, visit MDExpoShow.com.
It’s all a value proposition. How valuable does a biomed make him or herself to the team and their employer? Is learning a lifelong pursuit? There are many ways to look at earning certifications and there are no downsides. It should be approached as a challenge and a goal that has the potential to enhance your career.
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