By Michael Bassett
While the vast majority of biomedical equipment technicians, clinical engineers, specialists, managers, and others in the health care technology management field love their jobs and are proud of their accomplishments, they yearn for more recognition—and the salary to go along with it—for the role they play in patient care, according to the recently released results of 24×7’s 2012 Compensation Survey.
This year, 1,149 people (92% men and 8% women), the majority of whom are BMET 3s, responded to the survey, up from the 1,022 respondents last year. The majority who answered the survey work in hospitals, but others work in diverse areas such as the military and/or the Department of Defense, multispecialty physician groups, research firms, dental clinics, and as educators and consultants.
Ninety percent of the respondents indicate they are satisfied with their jobs, down by just one percentage point from numbers from the 2010 and 2011 surveys. For example, a biomed from a hospital with more than 40 beds asked, “Where else can you find a job where there is so much diversification?” Another, a BMET 2 with military training, wrote that the job is “challenging” and provides him with a “sense of accomplishment.”
|While some say their workloads are heavy, good management practices, planning, and teamwork make it acceptable.|
A manager working in a hospital with 50 to 100 beds wrote that working as a biomed is an “awesome” career choice. “You get to work on many cutting-edge technologies,” he wrote, adding that the field is also “stable,” since the nature of health care means that it is always necessary to have someone responsible for ensuring equipment is in working order.
“It’s a great job,” one respondent from the Mountain region concluded. “It can be demanding—and a pain at times—but what job is not?”
Respondents continued to voice concerns about growing workloads (particularly in relation to compensation levels) and a perceived lack of recognition within the industry.
For example, one respondent wrote that he would not recommend the profession to new entrants because of “its present undervalued state,” adding that perceptions of the profession’s role within the industry needs to change from that of “fix-it wrench technicians.”
Another, from the South Atlantic region, pointed out that as medical costs go up, and the need for medical technology increases, biomeds should be recognized as having a particularly valuable skill set. “We take our job seriously and do it with pride … my opinion is we should be compensated accordingly based on that very premise.”
“Nobody knows what a biomed tech does,” wrote another respondent. “And that means that nobody respects biomeds. That leads to under-compensation and a general lack of recognition.”
One respondent wrote that despite the amount of work biomeds do, and the level of expertise they are expected to have, they always have to prove and validate their value to their organizations.
However, these attitudes were strictly in the minority.
Average Regional Salaries by Job Title. Average base salaries per region and job title. * Indicates not enough respondents to give accurate results.
Higher Salaries Equal Greater Satisfaction
Unsurprisingly, according to the survey, larger salaries correspond to levels of satisfaction with compensation, although there were a few exceptions. For example, 38% of the clinical engineers with an average salary of $81,375 indicated they were less satisfied with their compensation level than another group of their colleagues who on average make $4,000 less annually.
The trend—higher salaries mirror compensation satisfaction—holds when broken down by gender. Those men most satisfied with their compensation had an average salary of $79,525, while women who were very satisfied with their level of pay had an average salary of $76,451. The least satisfied male respondents had an average salary of $51,701, while their female counterparts had an average salary of $46,701.
In addition to salaries and traditional benefits, such as medical, a small percentage receives other benefits, including tuition reimbursement, a company car or use of a company vehicle, long-term and/or short-term disability, wellness reimbursement/gym membership, and sometimes food.
Where do most people get information about their profession? The vast majority of respondents continue to get their information from magazines (32%) and the Internet (38%). Interestingly, the number of people reporting that meetings and conferences are their primary sources of information increased from 15% in 2010 and 2011, to 17% this year, suggesting that travel budgets may finally be increasing.
Workload levels continue to be a cause of concern for about one-third of the respondents. While 65% said that the workload is acceptable, 35% (the same percentage as last year) report that the burden is unsatisfactory. And, like a year ago, those who say their workload is too heavy lay much of the blame on the fact that staffing levels are inadequate to handle the equipment they are expected to maintain.
“We are way overworked for this size of a facility,” wrote one biomed with more than 15 years of experience at a 400 plus-bed hospital, adding that the workload at his facility continues to increase while staffing remains stable. A number of others reported that their responsibilities are increasing, or that they have had to deal with an expansion of facilities or services, all without adding staff.
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The Education to Pay Ratio
A manager with more than 6 years of experience echoed those concerns about inadequate staffing. “We are so short-staffed that the majority of my time during working hours is spent working, and not managing,” he says. “I’m forced to handle management responsibilities after hours.” Another military-trained biomed stated that overtime was recently eliminated at his facility, resulting in a reduction in compensation, even though his workload remained the same.
One respondent from the East North Central region wrote that dealing with procedures involving HIPAA-related documentation, as well as contract and documentation management (in addition to implementing IT-integrated systems), consumes time, drastically increases his workload, and “takes away from our main priority.”
Others said the workload just creates too much stress. “It’s unhealthy to sprint 8 hours a day,” one BMET 3 wrote. “Every call is marked urgent, and every customer is more important than the next. Every repair must be immediate regardless of part availability. And all of this while climbing a never-ending mountain of PMs.”
Despite these concerns, almost two-thirds of the respondents said the workload is acceptable. A number of them reported that they have recently been able to add staff, which has had a tremendously positive impact, while others wrote that while their workloads are heavy, good management practices, planning, a well-distributed workload, and teamwork make it acceptable.
For example, one imaging specialist reported that since his work is planned well in advance, “very little overtime is required.” And a BMET 3 wrote that she has been able to work with management to balance her workload evenly throughout the year.
Others acknowledge that while their workloads are heavy, they can handle it. One biomed from the East North Central region wrote that while he has to work “smartly” to keep up, “I can get the job done at a high quality standard.” Another with almost 5 years of experience wrote that she is busy and the demands on her time are growing, “but by adapting to changes and reorganizing how we do things, it’s doable.”
And an employee at the VA wrote, “I work with great biomeds who are willing to go the extra mile.”
Easing the Load
When it came to easing the workload burden, many respondents had a simple answer—add more staff. Others took it a step further by urging facilities not only to hire more workers, but to make sure they are experienced or can handle PMs or noncore biomed work that would leave the respondents free to handle more advanced repairs.
“Management hires kids right out of school and turns them loose with little or no training on major equipment systems and networks,” said a BMET 3 in the East North Central region.
One director wrote that having the staffing or technological infrastructure in place to support reporting and analytical needs would be beneficial. Others suggested more test equipment and tools, or redelegating certain duties to areas of the hospital—whether it is the IT, risk management, or purchasing departments—which would help reduce workloads and increase efficiency.
“Biomeds really care about what they do, how much they can save, and how quickly things are accomplished,” wrote one clinical engineer, who added that they always ensure tasks are done safely and correctly.
Having adequate staffing remains critical for many respondents. “We should stop trying to reduce workloads and hire the proper amount of help to support and enhance the medical profession,” a biomed from the South Atlantic region wrote. “Not just the minimum, but the maximum.”
Respondents also noted their desire to get more formal training. Thirty-five percent (the same level as a year ago) of the respondents report they did not receive technical training in the past year, while 18% received less than 20 hours of training. Just 23% had more than 40 hours of training in the past year.
One BMET 2 with more than 4 years of experience responded that while his hospital has added a few new technicians, more training is needed. “We need trained people that can jump in and repair right away,” he wrote.
Logging the Benefits
Managers had even less training. Sixty-eight percent reported they received no management training this year, while just 14% received more than 20 hours of training over the last year.
Overall, biomeds noted that an eye toward training would benefit everyone. As a Pacific area biomed said, “We need much more continuing education on the specific new equipment we are responsible for.” And an imaging specialist said, “The possibilities are endless, as long as you have an employer that will train you or send you to training. Technology is constantly changing and it requires a very diverse skill set.”
Challenging but Fun
Overall, despite concerns about workloads, recognition, and salary levels, most biomeds continue to find a tremendous amount of satisfaction in the work they do. A female BMET 2 echoed the responses of many by writing, “Daily challenges keep it interesting and rewarding.”
From the Pacific region a health care technology management professional expressed his positive attitude about the challenges when he wrote, “The profession is constantly evolving for the better. Keeps you on your toes and thinking, not mindless, robotic work.”
With a similar belief, a biomed from the West North Central region wrote, “I love this job. No day is ever the same; you never know what will happen.”
And finally, a biomed from the South Atlantic region sums it up when he wrote, “This is one of the finest careers an individual can embark on. The only limitations in this field are self-made. Technology is constantly changing, so we also have opportunities to continue our education. Along with servicing equipment, there are positions in design, safety regulations, sales, clinical support, and management. It’s a most wonderful world that we biomeds inhabit.” 24×7 December 2012.
Michael Bassett is a contributing writer for 24×7. For more information, contact [email protected].
Does Compensation Match Your Education and Experience?
Evaluating the Workload
Campaigning for the Profession
Are You Satisfied?