By Tim Cordes, CBET

If you’ve ever wondered what value joining an HTM association could have for you, my story serves as just one small example. The group I belong to—the Healthcare Technology Management Association of the Mid West (HTMA-MW)—is based in the Kansas City area, but our members live in a 100-mile radius. HTMA-MW’s beginning was rather typical—we started up in the late ’70s/early ’80, just a few guys and gals, having pizza and refreshments and discussing our common work problems.

Tim Cordes, CBET

Tim Cordes, CBET

Today, we enjoy fairly well-attended, bimonthly meetings and have sponsored three successful symposiums for our membership in the last six years. This has only been made possible through our corporate sponsorships and support from several HTM vendors. At our annual meeting in December, the topic of the current and future experiences of BMETs entering the field was discussed and, thus, our story began. The ending, however, has yet to be determined.

Identifying a Need in HTM

We’ve all read in 24 x7 Magazine that many areas of the country are experiencing a shortage of entry-level and/or experienced BMETs. In fact, there was a time in 2018 that we saw no less than 12 open BMET positions within a month in the Kansas City area; and in my 34 years as a BMET in Kansas City, I’ve never known of that many jobs available at one time in the region.

As our association discussed this, the value of being in one place at one time began to emerge. One of my facility’s HTM directors had been reaching out to a local community college’s electronics technology department, which had a BMET program that some of us had attended. And because another one of our HTM directors sits on the advisory board of an active BMET program at a technical college some 150 miles away, we wondered: Would it be feasible to create a BMET certificate program, partially online, in collaboration with the local associate degree program?

We reasoned that a program like that could give local students the opportunity to enter the HTM field, while keeping their expenses lower by living closer to home, and ultimately, create BMETs that would potentially stay in the area. What happened next was best described as “HTM Gone Mad,” with ideas and theories being tossed out at a frenzied pace. We threw out ideas far and wide, from establishing internship programs locally to spare the expense of creating a BMET lab, creating HTM program partnerships with HTMA-MW to standardize the content and expectations and attend local career fairs, and even creating centers of competency within different HTM programs.

Creating a Solution

At that point, in the midst of our brainstorming, reality began to set in. So, we formed a HTM awareness sub-committee consisting of a few HTMA-MW members and several of our HTM directors to explore the concept. The subcommittee went on to discuss the idea with the technical college and the local community college program directors and—lo and behold—they were immediately on board. The theory of minimal expense outlay for both programs helped the feasibility, according to the program directors, but the internship program was key to making it work.

One of our HTM programs currently had an internship program with the technical college, so we built the model around that existing program. We standardized a pay range, began building a competency document, checked it against AAMI’s BMET competency documents, and coupled it with the intern expectations from the technical college; any of our local HTM programs could utilize the documents with the caveat of modifying it for the specific facilities’ implementation.

In addition, we have started sharing internship program justifications between the HTM directors and are reaching out to HTM vendors to include any internship programs they may have in place or are willing to create. If successful in recruiting, we’ll need programs in place for the students to complete the internship requirement. We’ve started attending some career fairs and are now focusing on high schools with S.T.E.M. programs, specifically with a biomedical engineering focus.

I firmly believe that this entire adventure would not have been possible without us being together at one time and our inherent nature as BMETs to solve problems. I fully understand how attending association meetings, usually after a long day and balancing life, constantly gets in the way. But the value is undeniable.

So I would encourage all of us to pick a focus, whether it is the BMET shortage, local or international mission-type work, or a community service project. Once you’ve selected your focus, I recommend that you meet with your fellow BMETs and begin your adventure. I truly believe you will feel the value and maybe— just maybe—you’ll discover your own answer to the question: “What’s in it for me?”

Tim Cordes is a CBET at the University of Kansas Hospital. Questions and comments can be directed to 24×7 Magazine editor Keri Forsythe-Stephens at [email protected].