Salaries rise amid a shrinking talent pool
By Keri Forsythe-Stephens
**The January issue of 24×7 will feature more statistics and exclusive salary charts.**
The good news first: Salaries rose in nearly all major job categories—including BMET 2, BMET 3, clinical engineer, radiology equipment specialist, director/executive, and managers—in 24×7’s 2019 compensation and job satisfaction survey, with the radiology equipment specialist segment witnessing the highest year-over-year growth at 7.7%. (Only BMET 1s saw flat salary growth in 2019—with their salaries staying at $48,700.)
Nationwide, the median salaries for BMET 2s grew from $57,100 to $61,300, year-over-year, in 2019, while BMET 3s saw their salaries increase from $71,900 to $74,200, year-over-year. Moreover, those with the job title of “clinical engineer” witnessed a 5.1%, year-over-year, salary hike in 2019—with their salaries rising from $86,400 to $90,800. Finally, radiology equipment specialists, directors/executives, and managers saw their salaries increase from $85,300 to $91,900, $100,400 to $101,900, and $120,100 to $124,700, year-over-year, respectively, in 2019.
But despite these gains, the struggles that plagued HTM in 2018—namely, “Right to Repair” issues, cybersecurity vulnerabilities, and impending talent shortages—remained key concerns in 2019. The latter issue—the lack of candidates to fill job vacancies—was especially top of mind among respondents in 24×7’s 2019 survey.
24×7 Magazine conducted this year’s survey with the help of the Survey Gizmo Web platform. Subscribers were invited to take the 35-question online survey from November 1 through December 13—with the questionnaire inquiring about respondents’ gender, education, salary, benefits, and workload. The survey also delved into respondents’ overall level of job satisfaction, as well as their thoughts about the state of the HTM industry.
Of the 1,438 subscribers who responded, 1,361 indicated that they were employed full- time as an HTM professional in the United States. The salaries noted in the report—which are grouped into nine geographic divisions—are based on median values, rather than averages. (Check out the January issue of 24×7 to see exclusive salary charts.) To analyze the data, 24×7 Magazine employed the services of Villa Rica, Ga.-based private firm JGF Performance Consulting.
Anticipating a Talent Shortage
One of the biggest revelations in 24×7’s 2019 compensation and job satisfaction survey was the extensiveness of the looming staffing crisis. “The aging out of a large percentage of technicians from the field in the coming five years, and the lack of college programs offering the training needed to generate enough replacement technicians” is a major concern, one respondent wrote. Another quipped: “Old-timers are being replaced with warm bodies. An associate degree in biomed has gone by the wayside, [lengthening the time it takes for newcomers] to get up to speed. I think there is going to be a void really soon.”
Very soon, yes, but perhaps not immediately. The “typical” survey respondent in 2019’s compensation and job satisfaction survey was a 49-year-old male—a statistic directly in line with 2018 findings. Female respondents did have a slightly stronger presence in the most recent survey, however—accounting for 13% of those surveyed versus only 9% in 2018.
Another notable finding: More than one-third—36% to be exact—of 2019 respondents were in the 55-and-older age bracket. True millennials—those under the age of 35—represented just 17% of survey respondents. As one person put it, “Not enough young people are getting into the field.”
We Asked. You Told.
Given the strong representation of baby boomers in 2019’s survey, it’s no surprise that the boomers’ “work-hard” philosophy has impacted job productivity. Of those surveyed, only 6% reported working less than 40 hours a week. Moreover, 31% of respondents said they work 45 hours or more per week, with 13% falling into the 50-plus-hour-workweek category.
Many survey participants deemed these demands too extreme, however. Like in 2018, half of the respondents characterized their workload as “heavy,” with a further 12% calling it “excessive.” (Just a very small minority—2%—considered it light.)
One respondent seemed especially burdened by the workload, stating: “I have over 6,000 planned maintenance activities due annually. Along with corrective maintenance and committees plus reports meetings, it just keeps piling up.” Others shared this person’s sentiments. “Taking on more and newer equipment while expanding patient departments with little or no additional BMETs [is exhausting],” another respondent lamented.
Despite such heavy workloads, 64% of respondents received less than $5,000 in cash compensation beyond their salaries in 2019. And, what’s more, 30% of those surveyed received absolutely no additional cash compensation during the year. Perhaps tellingly, 31% of survey respondents revealed that they’re currently hunting for another job—with one respondent lamenting, “Just because I’m salaried, [my employer thinks] I should work all the time.”
Gripes aside, an overwhelming majority of survey respondents—60%—said they were either “very likely” or “likely” to recommend the HTM profession to others. (Only 3% deemed themselves “very unlikely” to do so.) When asked about their favorite aspects of working in HTM, survey participants had a mix of responses. Some cited the variability the field allows—“I appreciate the diversity of equipment and the opportunity to be involved with constantly evolving techniques and devices,” one respondent wrote—while others pointed to the patient care implications. “Ensuring the safety, reliability, and effectiveness of medical equipment in the healthcare delivery continuum” [is the best part of my job],” another remarked.
But with such a Herculean task comes much responsibility—particularly from a cybersecurity perspective. Numerous survey respondents pointed to the cybersecurity challenges brought on by the rise of connected devices—with one individual calling managing networked medical devices a major nuisance. “So many new [connected] devices are [coming to market] and being able to manage the security of these systems is becoming increasingly complicated,” the respondent wrote.
Others echoed this person’s concerns. “I’m not an IT expert—I had 40 years to go that way but didn’t—and now my role is trending more toward IT,” another respondent griped.
Still, some survey respondents relished the excitement of being on the frontlines of medical cybersecurity and working with complex, connected devices. Put simply, “I love the satisfaction of keeping equipment safe for patients,” one individual stated. Even so, many respondents mentioned the headaches associated with the increasingly blurred lines between biomed and IT.
“IT keeps having more control over biomed,” one respondent complained—with another lamenting IT’s lack of knowledge about medical devices, in general. “Networked devices make up about 10% of my inventory,” the respondent wrote. “IS thinks [the devices are] just computers; they don’t comprehend what the devices do and often assume that they can fix them.”
Frustrations aside, survey respondents had an overwhelmingly favorable outlook on the HTM profession. “This is great industry because of the wide range of possibilities it holds,” one respondent wrote. “Come in as a technician and then become an imaging specialist, a field service specialist, a team leader, a network specialist, etc.”
“Tinkerers,” another respondent wrote, do especially well in HTM. “And if you like the challenge of learning about medical equipment, this job is for you.”
Perhaps this person’s pitch is well-timed. Because if the results of 24×7’s 2019 compensation and job satisfaction survey are any indication of what’s to come, there will be a lot of job vacancies in the near future.
Keri Forsythe-Stephens is chief editor of 24×7 Magazine. Questions and comments can be directed to [email protected].