Advancing the quality and role of HTM professionals

By Phyllis Hanlon

Spread over 36,418 miles, the state of Indiana faces a problem when it comes to connecting. But in 1990, a handful of biomedical engineers sought a way to bring professionals in the industry together. They conducted a survey to evaluate the need and benefits of creating a professional organization. It turned out the need was great—the original core group of 10 has grown to an organization of more than 300 professionals. And for more than a quarter-century, the Indiana Biomedical Society (IBS) has been providing support, networking, and educational opportunities for biomedical engineers throughout the Hoosier state.

Birth of an Organization

George Gladding, CBET, BMET III, at Indianapolis’ St. Francis Hospital, was one of the founding members of IBS. He explains that biomedical engineering in the state had existed under the radar. “There was just one school, Purdue, that offered clinical engineering, but not biomedical engineering at that time,” he says. “We wanted to share education about the profession with small community hospitals and build respect for biomeds—get more pay [for them.”.

In a yearlong process, IBS drew ideas from existing societies across the country, specifically the Florida Biomedical Society and the North Carolina Biomedical Association to create its bylaws and establish its mission before an official launch. Once formally established, IBS held its early meetings at local hospitals where a technician would demonstrate a device, “tear it apart, and explain how it works, how to troubleshoot, and then put it back together,” Gladding says.

Eventually, IBS engaged vendors who presented new medical devices and more educational opportunities. “We held our first conference in 1991 and also hosted a lot of events with AAMI,” Gladding says, noting that through the years several founding members have remained active in the organization.

Today, IBS continues to embrace its original mission “to advance the quality, development, and role of biomedical technicians in the healthcare institution.” The society’s vendor list has grown to more than 50—and quarterly and annual meetings feature greater networking opportunities, educational sessions to keep members abreast of an ever-changing field, and previews of new equipment.

Under the leadership of current president Benjamin Esslinger, CBET, clinical engineer for medical engineering at Eskenazi Health in Indianapolis, IBS is growing, evolving, and adding more benefits for all its members, including students.

Academic Ties

Benjamin Esslinger, CBET

Benjamin Esslinger, CBET

While IBS exists to assist working biomedical engineers, the organization has long had a strong affiliation with two nearby schools: Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and Vincennes University. “Our society provides education for students before and as they are about to graduate,” says Esslinger. “They don’t know real-world situations, only what they’ve learned in school. The quarterly meetings and annual conference allows students the opportunity to get a different perspective and go to educational sessions.”

Barbara Christe, PhD, program director in IUPUI’s Engineering Technology Department and 24×7 editorial board member, can testify to the benefits students derive from their relationship with IBS. Speakers at the meetings “incentivize the academic experience” and provide good training opportunities. “The classroom lacks context and can be boring,” she admits. “Meetings are real concrete, in-your-face encounters that give students the stamina to endure daily academic rigors. They offer a slight glimpse of the more practical side of the industry and can be engaging and interesting.”

Additionally, when students attend meetings, they have a chance to mingle with technicians, managers, and directors from biomedical engineering departments who can offer advice and may be in search of talent. Christe explains that IUPUI students are required to complete an internship before graduation; IBS meetings offer networking opportunities that help students consider where they might seek internships.

“Students find out where to go, if it’s a good fit, who the director is,” says Christe. “When the student meets with the director and staff, they get insights into which hospital to pick. It’s a really big step for those new to the field.”

Christe points out that when students attend IBS meetings and the annual conference, they are also developing professionalism and acumen. “At the business meetings, they learn to network and speak intelligently, eat professionally, and acquire business manners, which are crucial to professional life,” she says. “Students can work on professionalism in a low-stakes learning environment.”

Vincennes University, the first college ever established in the United States, also enjoys a “great relationship with IBS,” according to William Harner, biomedical electronics coordinator at the school. “Our students rave about the meetings as a great learning experience,” he says.

Vincennes has a two-year program so there is limited time to impart as much knowledge as Harner would like. Fortunately, IBS-sponsored meetings and events reinforce the lessons he teaches in the classroom and also enable students to get acquainted with key figures in the industry. “The annual meeting gives students a chance to meet prospective employers, network with BMETs, and talk to people about the job,” Harner says.

Promoting Careers

IBS also contributes financially to the schools with an annual $500 scholarship. Additionally, students have a chance to work on real medical devices in a classroom setting, thanks to IBS, which coordinates equipment donations from vendors. “IBS acts as a conduit,” Christe says. “It’s a way to connect people who might want equipment with those who have it.”

Some biomeds remain part of IBS following graduation. As a student, Bryan Alexander benefited from attending IBS meetings and joined the organization when he graduated from IUPUI in December 2014. “I got to know other biomedical engineers,” he says. “At school, you have a concept of the job, but at meetings you actually get to talk to people in the field.”

Alexander found the annual conference particularly helpful as a student. “I attended roundtable discussions, where I was able to ask questions directly to the biomedical technicians. I also attended the résumé writing course, which was good,” he says. “The wireless technology system course is one educational session that stood out for me. I’ve definitely used things I learned from the conference in my job.”

Alexander highly recommends that students become involved with IBS. To make the most of the meetings, he suggests talking to every vendor, asking questions, and getting your name out by networking. Previously a BMET I in clinical engineering at IU Health University Hospital, he recently accepted a position at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis as a BMET II.

While the quarterly meetings and annual conference introduce students to professional opportunities, IBS wanted to throw the door wide open to the workaday world. To do that, the organization held its first career fair earlier this year, which drew the largest turnout for a non-conference event. A professional photographer was on hand to take photos and well-known industry experts conducted mock interviews to help prepare students for the job search process.

“Approximately 40 people attended. It was a very successful event,” Esslinger says. “[The career fair] helped to bridge the gap between school and the professional world. The students could ask realistic questions and get feedback from professionals. The fair brought the professional world to the students.” Although the fair was deemed a success, Esslinger hopes to improve the event in the future. “I’d like to bring in vendors and recruiters to fill positions right then and there, [which] will make the career fair more meaningful for the students,” he says.

Technology Evolution

Since the 1990s, the industry has witnessed a tremendous evolution in technology—a shift the IBS has embraced. “We have gone 100% electronic, which gives us the ability to reach more people quicker. Social media allows us to do more with less,” says Esslinger. “We are active on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media. We post events and photos on Facebook, and we have a social media expert who is also our Webmaster.” What’s more, the IBS’ meeting registration, notifications, contracts, and forms are available online, thus streamlining operations.

Esslinger sees the move to an electronic platform as advantageous in attracting new members. “New professionals live on social media. They don’t do mail. So this is a way to propel us in the future,” he says, but points out that he has even bigger plans for the future. “We’d like to put [quick response] (QR) codes on our name badges for the annual conference. We’ll put our contact information in the QR code, which will allow member-to-member and member-to-vendor interactions,” he says. “It’s something new we are working on right now.”

Looking Ahead

Throughout its history, IBS has always been well connected to other associations and individuals within the biomedical community. “We get great support from the student body and the original board members set a good foundation,” Esslinger says, although he hopes to increase membership and meeting attendance in the future. “We’d like to reach potential members at the far end of the state,” he adds. “We have more than 160 hospitals across the state and we get health technology management professionals that represent half. We’d like to tap into the rest.”

If you ask others in the biomedical world, they’ll offer praise for the organization’s staying power and relevance to the professional community. “IBS is one of the most active societies in the country. There is a lot of value in the networking and educational sessions,” says Christe. “So many societies can’t keep going. They start out and then die away.” She specifically applauds Esslinger, who she calls “new young blood that is good for IBS.”

Between the dedication of the founding members and the enthusiasm of the current leadership, IBS is on track to fulfill its mission: advancing the field of biomedical engineering across the state of Indiana and beyond. And such capabilities will be on full display later this month, when the IBS congregates for its 26th Annual Conference in Indianapolis from January 27-28.

Phyllis Hanlon is a contributing writer for 24×7. Questions and comments can be sent to Chief Editor Keri Forsythe-Stephens at KStephens@allied360.com.

 

SIDEBAR: IBS Tackles Cybersecurity

Since its inception 26 years ago, the Indiana Biomedical Society (IBS) has evolved along with the industry. Benjamin Esslinger, CBET and president of the IBS, sees more opportunity for the profession as technology plays a bigger role in healthcare.

“In the future, staff will have to cross-pollinate more as medical devices and network security become more intertwined,” he says. “Medical devices are the future of medicine. More and more, we are seeing that [biomeds] have to work together with information technology to identify risks and vulnerabilities,” he says, pointing out that in previous years medical information was not available on the network so hacking raised little concern.

To address this important issue, the upcoming IBS conference has adopted the theme of advancing the quality and role of biomedical engineers and will feature a daylong event on January 27 to spotlight medical device security.

“Our event will be held at Eskenazi Health in Indianapolis. This one-day work workshop on medical device cybersecurity is designed to build community, provide education on key topics, and advance the cyber-surveillance and safety data-sharing program,” adds Esslinger.

The event is co-sponsored by IBS and is being held in collaboration with the FDA, the Medical Device Innovation, Safety and Security Consortium (MDISS), and the National Health and Information Sharing and Analysis Center (NH-ISAC). Denise Anderson, NH-ISAC president, will participate in the workshop and Dale Nordenberg, MD, executive director of MDISS, will deliver the keynote address.

As a member of the Health Information Technology Standards Advisory Committee and the FDA’s National Evaluation System for Technology Planning Board, Nordenberg brings his vast knowledge and experience in the field of cybersecurity to the workshop. He also serves as co-chair of NH-ISAC’s Medical Device Security Information Sharing Council, which includes the medical device Information Sharing and Analysis Organizations. Previously, Nordenberg served as CIO of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Infectious Diseases and was a member of the FDA technology review committee of the Science Advisory Board.

The workshop will address several critical issues, including medical device security and its impact on patient care, patient vulnerability, risk assessment and other topics. It will also examine case studies, IBS officials reveal.

Since its inception 26 years ago, the Indiana Biomedical Society (IBS) has evolved along with the industry. Benjamin Esslinger, CBET and president of the IBS, sees more opportunity for the profession as technology plays a bigger role in healthcare.

“In the future, staff will have to cross-pollinate more as medical devices and network security become more intertwined,” he says. “Medical devices are the future of medicine. More and more, we are seeing that [biomeds] have to work together with information technology to identify risks and vulnerabilities,” he says, pointing out that in previous years medical information was not available on the network so hacking raised little concern.

To address this important issue, the upcoming IBS conference has adopted the theme of advancing the quality and role of biomedical engineers and will feature a daylong event on January 27 to spotlight medical device security.

“Our event will be held at Eskenazi Health in Indianapolis. This one-day work workshop on medical device cybersecurity is designed to build community, provide education on key topics, and advance the cyber-surveillance and safety data-sharing program,” adds Esslinger.

The event is co-sponsored by IBS and is being held in collaboration with the FDA, the Medical Device Innovation, Safety and Security Consortium (MDISS), and the National Health and Information Sharing and Analysis Center (NH-ISAC). Denise Anderson, NH-ISAC president, will participate in the workshop and Dale Nordenberg, MD, executive director of MDISS, will deliver the keynote address.

As a member of the Health Information Technology Standards Advisory Committee and the FDA’s National Evaluation System for Technology Planning Board, Nordenberg brings his vast knowledge and experience in the field of cybersecurity to the workshop. He also serves as co-chair of NH-ISAC’s Medical Device Security Information Sharing Council, which includes the medical device Information Sharing and Analysis Organizations. Previously, Nordenberg served as CIO of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Infectious Diseases and was a member of the FDA technology review committee of the Science Advisory Board.

The workshop will address several critical issues, including medical device security and its impact on patient care, patient vulnerability, risk assessment and other topics. It will also examine case studies, IBS officials reveal.

—— P.H.