The current status and future prospects of the occupation known variously as biomedical technician, clinical engineer, or HTM professional being top of mind these days, you may have noticed a press release issued by AAMI last January 15. Headlined “BMET Career Called One of the ‘Five Best Jobs You’ve Never Heard Of’ by Money Magazine,” the release stated that the Money article placed the role of biomed among an “elite group” of fast-growing occupations. The article, the press release continued, “is just the latest accolade for the profession, which has previously been selected as a top job by U.S. News & World Report and other national publications.”
I have no criticism of AAMI’s press release or its assessment of the Money article. Part of the organization’s mission is to promote the profession, and this press release does just that. But the Money article itself, I think, calls for closer scrutiny.
Written by freelance contributor Daniel Bortz, the article includes the job title “medical equipment repairer” along with four other occupations for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects above average growth through 2022: nuclear medical technologist, digital risk officer, health-and-wellness educator, and industrial-organizational psychologist.
What sets these five jobs apart from all others is not that they are the fastest-growing occupations (or the “best,” for that matter). Although all are growing faster than the average of 11%, only the industrial-organizational job is in the top five. (At a predicted growth of 30.3%, biomeds come in 42nd among the 1,091 occupations tracked by the BLS.) Rather, these five jobs in particular were selected simply because “no one” has ever heard of them before. Or perhaps more precisely, because Daniel Bortz had never heard of them.
And that, for me, is the most meaningful aspect of the article: not that the “medical equipment repairer” occupation is among hundreds of job types expected to grow in number, but that it can be so readily pegged as a job you’ve never heard of.
What we seem to have here is an identity problem. To begin with, does anyone really have the job title “Medical Equipment Repairer”? (If you do, please let us know in the comments below.) That’s a problem that AAMI moved to fix last year when it petitioned the Office of Management and Budget to change the title to “Healthcare Technology Management—Technicians” as well as to move it from the broad category of installation, maintenance, and repair jobs to engineering jobs instead.
But of course, plenty of people object to AAMI’s preferred HTM denomination as well, as we saw in last month’s lively exchange of views over Dave Harrington’s article calling healthcare technology management “the wrong title for what we do.”
What lies behind this ongoing identity problem, I suspect, is the apparent fact that the occupation itself is undergoing a significant evolution, as the technology it is based on evolves. Forty years ago, the title “Medical Equipment Repairer” might have adequately defined the job; now, not so much. With the growing integration of software into devices and the networking of devices with one another, among other advances, the nature of the occupation is inevitably changing. Whether you like the proposed HTM name or not, the field does seem now to be much more about managing healthcare technology than about repairing medical equipment.
Browsing through the BLS projections for the growth or decline of job types, by the way, is enlightening. At the bottom of the list are two endangered occupations you probably have heard about, at least in old movies: “Fallers”—that is, lumberjacks—for which the number of jobs is predicted to decline 43%, and “Locomotive Firers,” the guys that once stoked the firebox and now watch gauges and look for trouble on the tracks, declining 42%.
As with most occupations in healthcare, which dominate the BLS list of fastest-growing jobs, the work most 24×7 readers do is not going away, even if the job title changes. But whether we’ll see a 30% increase by 2022 in the total number of jobs matching the description of “medical equipment repairer” is less certain. What we can be more sure of, though, is that by then, the name “Medical Equipment Repairer” is likely to sound as antique as “Faller” or “Locomotive Firer.” 24×7
John Bethune is editorial director of 24×7. He can be reached at [email protected].