The recent article on the HTM Salary Survey revealed some rather troubling statistics on the average age of the biomed workforce and the numbers who plan to retire in the next decade. This has raised a multitude of important questions that we as a field must ask ourselves and address on a daily basis if we are to survive the next 15 to 20 years without becoming part of Plant Services, or worse…IT.
As a 26-year-old biomed who entered the field within the last few years, I get to see first-hand the aging workforce and the huge gap between generations in the field. There seems to be a disconnect somewhere, a missing bridge that allows for the free flow of ideas and information between the senior techs and the entry-level technicians. We, as a younger group of technicians, must find a way to step into the shoes of those who have gone before us and learn as much as we can from their vast wealth of knowledge before it is too late. We need to break out of our bubble of isolation and social media to interact with those around us, to work side by side with those who have done this for so many years. At the same time, the field must come up with new ways of engaging young minds and drawing in new recruits.
For me, the transition to Biomed happened over many years and many jobs that all had one common theme—to help others no matter the cost. One day, my mom came home from her new job at Texas State Technical College in Waco, Tex, and told me there was a biomed program at the school and that I should check it out. I went and toured the department and knew in the first 5 minutes that I was going to be a biomed. Seven semesters later, I graduated with dual associate of applied science degrees in biomedical equipment technology and medical imaging technology. For me, this was an exciting time. However, I was one of the few new recruits entering the field.
The biggest problem I see with recruiting young people is that Biomed is not a very well-known field. When you ask people how they heard about it, they usually answer that a family member was a biomed at some point and talked them into trying it. We, as a field, cannot rely on family and friends to fill vacant positions. We need to start educating youth about what we do, advertising at high schools and career days for community and technical colleges. We need to get the word out to the public about the field.
A campaign of commercials would be a great benefit. Big oil and gas companies sponsor advertisements for promoting their brands. What if big healthcare companies did the same thing, except geared toward promoting the great career opportunities in healthcare besides being a nurse or a doctor? What if AAMI helped sponsor a group of commercials to attract young minds to this wonderful and exciting field? This strategy would almost certainly attract more young people to the field at a time when help is desperately needed.
Interaction between the current generations of biomeds is equally as important as recruiting fresh young minds. Without the knowledge and skills of the older generations, the new recruits would be lost. The older generation can learn a thing or two from the new kids on the block, as well. Young biomeds can teach computer skills such as networking or setting up print servers. They can show older techs tricks to save time when completing work orders or working on spreadsheets. However, it is imperative that the younger generation put down the smartphones or tablets and engage in actual face to face conversation, just as the older generation must be willing to open up and accept the younger guys, instead of holding onto that “kids these days” mentality.
In my current position, we have a mix of young and older technicians. We rely on each other equally to accomplish our goals and tasks. We communicate with each other and help each other out whenever we can. Although we still have that generation gap, we have found ways to work through it, partly in thanks to our supervisors encouraging us to work together on different problems and to learn from each other. They encourage us to share our findings and tricks with each other to better accomplish our jobs.
The generations must also unite behind the need for regional associations and industry magazines. Without these, information would not be as readily available or shared as easily. We need the free flow of ideas to drive the field forward. Social media has a useful place in the industry, but it cannot replace the kind of networking that happens in a room over some pizza and stimulating conversation.
We are all in this together. It is time that we take age out of the equation and put patient care first and foremost. We must be able to critique ourselves and each other to improve the services we provide. We must unite to find ways to adapt to changing technology and security concerns. If we can unite and work together, we stand a better chance of avoiding assimilation by IT.
Hunter Harren is a BMET II at FirstCall Clinical Technology Services.