By Keri Forsythe-Stephens
Salaries remain steady, but challenges remain
**The December issue of 24×7 featured more statistics and exclusive salary charts.**
**Sponsored by Fluke Biomedical**
In a year marked by change—healthcare technology management (HTM) program closures at DeVry and Brown Mackie College, executive moves at AAMI, and even editorial change-ups at 24×7—one thing remained largely the same: Your salaries. 24×7’s 2015 compensation and job satisfaction survey reported median national salaries of $45,000, $54,000, and $66,000 for BMET 1, BMET 2, and BMET 3 rankings, respectively. One year later, only BMET 2s saw any change in wages—albeit not in the direction they wanted. Year-over-year, the average national salary for BMET 2s slid $2,000, falling to $52,000.
Fortunately, this figure seems to be an outlier. Median salaries for radiology equipment specialists and their manager counterparts showed slight growth across the nation in 2016, improving from $79,900 and $87,900 to $80,500 and $88,000, year-over-year, respectfully. (Clinical engineers, however, recorded a $1,600 drop in wages, nationally, on average.)
Also showing slight growth in 2016 was the number of women in the HTM field. Women only comprised 8% of last year’s survey respondents—a number that rose to 10% in 24×7’s 2016 compensation and job satisfaction survey. Despite these modest gains, the “typical” survey respondent was a 49-year-old male (three years younger than 2015’s median age) living in the Midwest. Moreover, he held an associate of applied science degree and considered himself fairly satisfied with his compensation rate, ranking it a 3.7 on a 1 (very unsatisfied) to 5 (very satisfied) scale.
The average respondent also worked in a hospital—a setting that received rather mixed reviews in the 2016 survey. Some respondents praised the direct impact on patient care they experienced in the hospital environment; others cited a general lack of regard for biomeds and other HTM professionals among hospital personnel. “I don’t like how upper management undervalues us,” one respondent wrote. “Typically, I feel it is because they don’t value the time or even comprehend the value spent.”
Another called HTM “low prestige” within the hospital structure—“equivalent to maintenance.” And a third respondent lamented: “[There’s a vibe among hospital managers] that we are not important and management can always hire another person to carry out their orders if we don’t do them.”
Survey respondents also griped about the bureaucratic red tape in the hospital environment (or “corporate nonsense,” as one person put it.) Mounds of paperwork are particular nuisances, HTM professionals told 24×7. “Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork,” one reader quipped, “and most of it is useless!”
Grievances aside, 2016 survey respondents were likely to endorse the HTM profession to others. Last year, 42% of respondents said they were “very likely” to recommend the HTM field to those outside of it; this percentage elevated to 45% in 2016. Only 3% of this year’s respondents indicated that they were “not likely at all” to recommend the profession—a slight improvement from the 5% who said this in 2015.
Readex Research—a Minnesota -based research firm—conducted this year’s survey on behalf of 24×7, with Fluke Biomedical—an Everett, Wash-based manufacturer of biomedical test and simulation products—generously serving as the study’s sponsor.
Invitations to complete the 33-question online survey were e-mailed to 24×7 subscribers on October 4, 2016, with reminder emails sent on October 10 and 13. The questionnaire, which was jointly developed by 24×7 and Readex, inquired about respondents’ gender, education, salary, benefits, and workload, as well as their overall level of job satisfaction.
Of the 987 subscribers who responded, 818 indicated they were employed full-time as an HTM professional in the United States. The margin of error for percentages based on these results is ±3.3 percentage points at a 95% confidence level.
The salaries noted in this report are based on median values, rather than averages, in order to avoid data distortion. Like in previous years, 24×7 divided the salaries by nine geographic regions; however, due to the smaller response rate for certain job titles, such as clinical engineers, some categories did not produce enough data to generate a median. Such instances are dubbed “N/A.”
Deconstructing the Data
When analyzing the data compiled by Readex, one theme reigned supreme: The heavy workloads HTM professionals are juggling. Some respondents blamed insufficient manpower and resources for this phenomenon; others cited frequent independent service organization audits. Either way, 54% of survey respondents rated their workloads as “heavy” while 14% went one step further and called them “excessive”—figures completely in line with 2015 statistics. (Still, 30% considered their workloads “moderate,” with a very small minority—2%—calling them “light.”)
Increasing government regulations are also adding to HTM professionals’ workloads. “A new emphasis by The Joint Commission and [the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Service] on adhering to OEM PM requirements add additional strain on limited resources,” one respondent wrote. “Having to ‘do more with less’ for too long is placing strain on our equipment and personnel.”
Another respondent revealed that he/she is tasked with performing all monthly preventative maintenance tasks solo. “I work between 45 to 50 hours a week and I’m expected to help on my days off,” the respondent added. “I’m given all difficult assignments and asked to train and educate my teammates in all respects.”
Working extra hours has its perks, however, HTM professionals acknowledged. Thirty-seven percent of those surveyed received bonuses on top of their salaries in 2016—up from 31% in 2015—with 59% netting overtime pay and 53% receiving extra on-call pay. (The latter figures were exactly the same in 2015, minus 60% of respondents receiving overtime pay last year.)
Better than last year, however, were respondents’ opinions regarding whether their compensation was truly commensurate with their education. On a 1 (“very unfair”) to 5 (very fair”) scale, the mean score of education-to-compensation fairness in 2016 was 3.7—higher than in 2015. Twenty-six percent of this year’s survey respondents said their compensation was very fair in light of their educational level (up from 24% in 2015) while 36% deemed it “fair”—a significant leap from the 24% who selected this answer in 2015. “For the level of education required, the compensation is high,” one respondent wrote.
Eyes Toward the Future
Sunny outlook aside, reports about the greying of the HTM field were consistent with new survey findings. Although the median age of respondents dropped slightly, year-over-year, 18% of those surveyed in 2016 indicated that they had 30-39 years of job experience; a subsequent one-quarter of respondents fell into the 20-29 years of experience bracket.
Still, a retiring HTM workforce doesn’t signal gloom and doom for those left behind, one respondent explained. Instead, “an aging workforce is going to open up multiple opportunities for younger workers,” the respondent projected. Another HTM professional echoed this enthusiasm. “It’s been a great ride for the past 30 years and the future of the field is just getting better,” the second respondent said.
Challenges certainly exist, survey respondents said—namely, concerns about cybersecurity, increasing IT integration, and changes in the national healthcare landscape—but the HTM field will remain a viable career path moving forward. One respondent, perhaps, summed it up best: “Biomed may not be for everyone, but for a certain select group of self-starters who like the constant technical challenge of learning new things and equipment in a healthcare environment, this is the right profession.”
Keri Forsythe-Stephens is chief editor of 24×7. For more information about these results, contact [email protected].