AAMI’s BMET Apprenticeship Program is transforming and revitalizing how biomedical equipment technicians (BMETs) are hired across the industry. To help hospitals and health systems participate in this program, Nuvolo is extending its deadline for joining the Nuvolo Apprenticeship Certification Program to December 31.

Nuvolo provides computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) software and was the first company to provide financial support to help hospitals and health systems certify their BMET apprentices. Through the Nuvolo Apprenticeship Certification Program, the first seven health systems or stand-alone hospitals to enroll in AAMI’s BMET Apprenticeship Program by December 1, 2022, will be automatically eligible to receive up to $725 per apprentice for two apprentices. Each apprentice must also have enrolled in AAMI’s BMET Apprenticeship Program by December 1.

A total of up to 14 apprentices will have the cost of their certification tests covered by Nuvolo. As of January 2022, five hospitals and health systems and six BMETs are eligible to receive funding through the Nuvolo Apprenticeship Certification Program.

“AAMI is beyond thankful that Nuvolo stepped up and offered sponsorship to get apprenticeship programs started in hospitals that might not have all of the funds to financially commit,” says Danielle McGeary, AAMI’s vice president of HTM. “Being able to have financial compensation for the three certifications required in the apprenticeship curriculum is really helpful.”

McLaren Health Care, a large healthcare system headquartered in Michigan, is one of the first organizations to take advantage of Nuvolo’s sponsorship. McLaren currently has four apprentices, with approval for a fifth. Each of McLaren’s apprentices come from different professional backgrounds, but all have an interest in healthcare technology management (HTM).

According to Samantha Jacques, vice president of McLaren Clinical Engineering Services, AAMI’s BMET apprenticeship program benefits the entire HTM team, the health system, and the apprentices. “We really look at it as a way for individuals, either within hospitals already or from outside of hospital systems, to get involved in HTM in a way that doesn’t prohibit them from making a difference right away,” Jacques says. 

“We’re not putting their journey on pause just because they don’t have the academic background that is traditional for an HTM program,” Jacques adds. “So, it’s a great way to find individuals that want to make that transition and get them in the hospital much quicker.”

AAMI’s BMET apprenticeship program combines in-class education and up to 6,000 hours of paid, hands-on learning. After completing the program and three required certifications, apprentices receive a nationally recognized certificate issued by AAMI and the U.S. Department of Labor.

The formal learning component includes college courses such as anatomy and physiology. Apprentices must pass three certification tests, including AAMI’s Certified Associate in Biomedical Technology, COMPTIA–IT Fundamentals, and AAMI’s Certified Biomedical Equipment Technician test. Nuvolo’s sponsorship will cover the costs of these required certifications for 14 apprentices.

The benefits of having a pre-built curriculum are clear, according to Jacques. “What’s wonderful about the program is that I didn’t have to do the design and development of it. The amount of work it takes to develop that cross-training plan to move individuals over to the HTM department is significant, and so the fact that this is pre-built, and everything they need to learn to meet requirements was defined, truly attracted us to this program.”

The apprentices are already getting plenty of critical, real-world experience, Jacques says. “Usually, they’ll start out with basic stuff,” she adds. “We want them to go to orientation and understand all the safety protocols, and after that they start off on basic types of equipment—for example, exam tables, thermometers, or vital signs monitors.” 

“Usually, they wouldn’t start seeing things like physiological monitors until towards the end of year one,” Jacques adds. “But because of COVID, they’re going out with the more seasoned technicians. They’ve had to learn as they go because their help is required at this point, and they’ve all done a great job of adapting to their new environment, working with very diverse teams, and getting experience.”

Additionally, the program has given the mentors who are training the apprentices additional teaching experience and greater awareness of certifications. “One thing I’m really hoping this program does is create a whole group of mentors who can turn around and give back to the field in a new way by potentially teaching a class at a partner school,” Jacques says. “That helps perpetuate the field in the longer term, and I think that’s what’s been missing for quite a few years.

Jacques advises others wanting to participate in the AAMI BMET Apprenticeship Program to talk to others who currently are participating. “You don’t need to do this by yourself—there are resources in the field that are either in the middle of this or that AAMI can point you to so that you’re not shouldering all the work yourself,” she says.

The purpose of AAMI’s two-year BMET Apprenticeship Program is to address the declining number of BMET professionals entering the field, which is a problem that will only get worse over time. Approximately 55% of the field is over the age of 50, and there aren’t enough incoming BMETs to replace those who will be retiring soon.

Parts of the country don’t have any academic programs specific to BMET training—and without those programs, there isn’t a consistent way to create awareness or build a pipeline of trained individuals. “There are roughly 78 BMET-specific academic programs across the country,” says McGeary. “What we’re seeing is that, due to lack of awareness of the field, people aren’t enrolling, and a lot of the programs are closing.”

This means it is often up to individual hospitals to find and train their own BMETs, which puts pressure on those healthcare organizations. “The AAMI apprenticeship is about quality, consistency, safety, and opportunity,” McGeary says. “If we’re going to have employers training BMETs themselves, we want to make sure it is being done safely and consistently. So, this was a way to establish a core curriculum.”

Because hospitals and HTM employers are hiring apprentices and training them locally, it provides a much wider and more diverse range of students the opportunity to enter the field. “It has allowed AAMI to go into different areas to create diversity in the field,” McGeary adds. “Developing a program like this allows anyone, regardless of where they’re from, that opportunity. We also even had an indigenous area of Alaska reach out because they’ve had no way to recruit people for so long.”

According to McGeary, AAMI has a growing list of more than 300 people interested in becoming an apprentice. “That’s really miraculous because we’re creating the pipeline of folks that may have never known about the field at all,” she says.

Featured image: McLaren Health Care BMET Apprentices Spencer Cottrell (left) and Mitchell Roach. (AAMI)