Wages surge amid supply chain woes, cybersecurity concerns 

By Keri Forsythe-Stephens

Editor’s note: The January/February 2023 print issue will feature exclusive salary charts and regional break-downs.

With U.S. News & World Report recently citing the healthcare technology management (HTM) field—namely the “medical equipment repairer” job title—as one of the best jobs of 2023, the biomed sector seems hotter than ever. Right? It’s complicated, according to the respondents of 24×7’s 2022 compensation and job satisfaction survey. 

Salaries are certainly up, with all major job HTM categories—BMET 1s, BMET 2s, BMET 3s, clinical engineers, radiology equipment specialists, managers, and directors/executives—seeing notable wage improvements. But amid record-high inflation and stress surrounding supply chain woes and cybersecurity concerns, the outlook is more lukewarm than hot, some respondents maintained. And not all job titles are witnessing the same levels of growth.  

Nationwide, clinical engineers fared the best in 2022, with their median salaries growing $14,300, year-over-year, to $103,500. Managers also broke the six-figure ceiling, seeing their salaries rise $10,700, year-over-year, to $110,500. Trailing their clinical engineer and manager counterparts were BMET 1s, BMET 2s, and radiology equipment specialists, with their median salaries surging $7,200, $7,300, and $7,300, year-over-year, respectively, in 2022.

Notably, BMET 3s and directors/executives saw the slowest salary growth in 24×7’s 2022 compensation and job satisfaction survey. Directors/executives nationwide only recorded a $3,600, year-over-year, median salary increase in 2022, while BMET 3s reported a modest $4,300 boost. 

That’s not to say that all regions performed equally. Salaries in the Mountain West outpaced most other regions in 24×7’s 2022 compensation and job satisfaction survey—with BMET 2s, in particular, enjoying strong financial growth. Their median salaries grew from $60,500 to $75,100, year-over-year, in 2022, while Mountain West-based BMET 1s saw their salaries surge from $47,500 to $67,200. BMET 3s in the Mountain West also netted substantial gains, with their median salaries swelling from $78,300 to $91,500, year-over-year.

Their colleagues to the west also saw fatter wallets in 2022. Salaries in the Pacific region were up in all job categories—BMET 2s, notably, enjoyed $23,700 median annual salary growth—except for one outlier: director/executive. Salaries for the latter transitioned from $167,500 to $157,700, year-over-year, in 2022, despite growing exponentially for their radiology equipment specialist peers. (Those who specialized in imaging equipment in the Pacific region experienced a whopping $34,900 median salary increase, with their annual pay surging to $128,200.)

Impressive, yes, but perhaps the most noteworthy increase in 2022’s survey? The number of female respondents. 

Shifting Demographics

In 2021, women comprised 11% of the survey respondents—a figure directly in line with 2020 statistics. This number doubled in 2022, with females accounting for 22% of the roughly 1,100 respondents. The age of those surveyed also shifted slightly, showing a significant increase in Millennials—particularly among the 30-39 set. Another change from 2021: the number of Generation Z professionals represented in 24×7’s 2022 compensation and job satisfaction survey.

Nearly one-quarter of 2022’s survey respondents—24%, to be exact—were 30 and younger while 27% fell into the 55-and-older age bracket. It’s a marked change from 2021, where only 30% of respondents were under the age 40, and nearly half—a hefty 46%—were over 50. Another noteworthy change was the percentage of respondents enrolled in school. In 2021, 18% of respondents copped to pursuing further education, a figure that nearly doubled—reaching 35%—in 2022. 

Down, however, was the percentage of respondents who enjoyed employer benefits such as paid time off and health insurance. Both benefits fell from 96% and 95% to 83% and 81%, year-over-year, respectively, in 2022. Tuition reimbursement and professional development benefits also declined slightly in 2022, falling from a respective 68% and 58% to 61% and 55%, year-over-year.

Benefit changes aside, nearly two-thirds of survey respondents—a solid 65%—said they were either “very likely” or “likely” to recommend the profession to others. Only a paltry 11% indicated that they were either “somewhat unlikely” or “very unlikely” to do so. 

The State of the HTM Industry

When asked about their favorite aspects of working in HTM, respondents cited the usual suspects: the autonomy allowed by the profession, the diversity of equipment and applications, and the ability to positively impact patient care. Regarding the latter benefit, one respondent wrote: “I feel like the motor in the vehicle. You may not always see me, but you know I’m making it possible to provide adequate care for all patients.”

Another respondent praised the “opportunity to perform a meaningful, valuable service in healthcare at the intersection of technology and people.”

Meaningful work, yes, but extensive according to many respondents in 24×7’s 2022 compensation and job satisfaction survey. More than half of those surveyed—55%—characterized their workload as either “heavy” or “excessive,” with only 3% deeming it “light.”

The pandemic, it seems, played a large part in that assessment. Many survey respondents highlighted the difficulties they’ve faced getting parts for repairs—especially parts that are manufactured abroad. “Indefinite backorders have really affected us,” one individual lamented, while another quipped that “replacement parts are constantly getting stuck on a boat in a harbor somewhere.”

Batteries—in particular, defibrillator batteries—have been especially elusive, according to numerous survey respondents. “We have dozens of [defibrillators] that are out of compliance due to the inability to get batteries—some of which were ordered over a year ago,” one person wrote. “We’ve had several discussions about what to do about this issue, with resolutions involving taking defibrillators away from areas that are deemed unnecessary to have one.”

Another survey respondent called the situation “trying,” commenting that the COVID-19 surge created a need for rental/loaner equipment, causing a backlog in preventive maintenance (PM) procedures.” Staffing shortages have further complicated the issue, many respondents pointed out. 

“I am one person averaging 160 PMs—and that’s not including service calls,” one individual wrote. “I’m responsible for five departments, including 40 operating rooms. I’m supposed to be a team of four, but we are having a hard time finding qualified candidates.”

That respondent wasn’t alone. “We were able to keep up with our workload two years ago with nine technicians,” another person expressed. “Now there are only five of us.”

A Bright Future for HTM?

Supply chain shortages may be out of most respondents’ control, but they hope to remedy the personnel issues. Simply put, one individual wrote, “The profession needs more people.” 

Another respondent encouraged anyone with a technical mind and a proficiency in troubleshooting to consider a career in HTM. “There is something so rewarding about digging into a piece of equipment, finding a problem, and fixing it,” the respondent wrote. “Plus, you can pretty much get a job anywhere in the U.S., working on just about any type of medical equipment you want.”

Those with special skills are particularly marketable, according to numerous respondents of 24×7’s 2022 compensation and job satisfaction survey. Certifications, such as AAMI’s Certified Biomedical Equipment Technician (CBET) credential, as well as advanced cybersecurity training, may give HTM professionals a leg up on their peers, some maintained.

And cybersecurity, according to an overwhelming majority of survey respondents, is the top issue that keeps them up at night. “The hospital doesn’t protect their medical equipment like they should,” one respondent wrote, with another noting that “we are still dealing with ‘new’ medical devices that have 20-year-old Wi-Fi technology onboard, which is a huge vulnerability to the network.” 

A huge vulnerability to the network, and a huge headache to those tasked with managing their integrity, some respondents noted. So, do the salary increases seen in many regions compensate for the stress of dealing with supply chain issues and cybersecurity concerns? The jury’s out, according to numerous respondents of 24×7’s 2022 compensation and job satisfaction survey. 

Keri Forsythe-Stephens is chief editor of 24×7 Magazine. Questions and comments can be directed to [email protected].