By Danielle C. McGeary, CHTM
It is such an exciting time to be working in the healthcare technology management (HTM) field! With the rapid changes occurring in healthcare delivery and management, combined with the advent of virtual reality and artificial intelligence into the health technology space, the need for experienced HTM professionals is only going to grow exponentially.
However, somehow the HTM field is struggling to attract new people. How can this be? With health technology as complex as it has ever been, how can a field that is so necessary to the safe, effective, and efficient operations of a healthcare system be at a loss for people?
There are surely a few factors at play here, with the first being a lack of HTM-specific academic programs. People who want to pursue an academic degree in HTM have few places to go to school. In fact, many areas of the country do not have any HTM-specific academic programs at all. When students with a technical aptitude are selecting a college, they are choosing general electronics programs, which are exactly what they are: general. If no one is pushing these students to go into HTM or making them aware that being a biomedical equipment technician (BMET) is a rewarding and lucrative career option, these talented students will be sucked up by other industries.
The same thing is occurring with our biomedical engineering majors. With close to 200 biomedical engineering degree programs in the United States, these students need to know that HTM is a career option—why go into research and development when you can be a clinical engineer?
The second factor here is that most people do not know HTM is a career. Lack of awareness about the field in general is most likely causing the lack of HTM-specific academic programs. To expand on this issue, even those who are somewhat aware of HTM as an occupation do not even begin to understand the extent of everything HTM professionals do in a hospital. HTM professionals are part of the clinical care team and do so much more than just fixing broken medical equipment.
As healthcare has continued to evolve over the past 10 years, so has the HTM professional’s role in the field. HTM professionals find solutions through technology to constantly improve patient safety, the quality of care, and the patient experience. HTM professionals do this while also minimizing financial costs, ensuring devices are interoperable with other clinical systems, and safeguarding medical devices from cyberattacks. They solve complex healthcare problems, are part of multidisciplinary hospital teams, and must be able to speak the same language as hospital executives.
Now here is where you come in. Promoting HTM is everyone’s responsibility. With 62% of the HTM population being over 52 years old, the field is going to have a mass exodus of staff in the next 10 to 15 years. It is essential that we get ahead of this now before the HTM personnel pipeline challenge gets exponentially worse than it already is.
Let’s also not forget that the folks who will be retiring are the well-seasoned and experienced HTM professionals and senior leaders. The field will not just be losing bodies, it will be losing an immense amount of expertise and knowledge that cannot be easily replaced.
This is truly a call to action, and everyone can help this cause by helping to spread awareness about HTM. We must spread awareness to children, college students, adults, and even within our own hospitals. If hospital leadership and staff do not truly understand our roles, the field will never elevate and continue to grow. We must also start recruiting young professionals now so that the field has time to cross-train and mentor them before all this seasoned talent is lost.
AAMI has helped to make promoting HTM easy by creating a tool called “HTM in a Box.” HTM in a Box is a free digital resource designed to engage students and prospective HTM professionals. It’s an interactive virtual platform that puts three exciting HTM career presentations at your fingertipsthat are tailored to specific age groups: middle school, high school, and college and beyond (including adults and career changers)
You can access the presentations at www.aami.org/HTMinaBox, and you do not need to be an AAMI member to use it. The site offers additional resources to use when promoting the field, including: a list of HTM-specific academic programs by state, scripts to use when contacting schools via phone or email, an orientation video explaining “HTM in a Box,” an HTM Career Brochure, and a new HTM video that promotes the field. AAMI is here to help and wants to take away the time involved with prepping and planning for a career presentation. With this tool, all you have to do is set the date and show up.
So, let’s work together to overcome the workforce shortage and help make a lasting impact for the future of HTM by spreading awareness about the field to people of all ages and throughout healthcare.
Danielle C. McGeary, CHTM, is vice president of healthcare technology management at AAMI.