By Jeffrey Ruiz

I recently had the privilege of helping my local team members with a CMMS database project. I won’t go into the specifics, but the project covered many areas and involved technicians with many diverse backgrounds. At first, I tried to engage the teams with Excel spreadsheets and shared with their respective leaders the tasks that needed to be completed. But after little impact, I tried a more direct approach and reached out to each technician individually. 

That, it seemed, finally made a difference. I was able to build rapport with each team, who then gave me a small glimpse of what they go through on a daily basis.  

My focus of the project quickly shifted and I became a sounding board for these teams as they shared their respective experiences and challenges. Some of them told me how they had been impacted by recent hospital acquisitions and weren’t sure if they were going to lose their jobs or not. Another technician shared with me that this was his fourth database change—and with each change came increasing complexities. 

Then there were the BMETs who were about to report to their hospital’s materials department and change from a CMMS database to a supply chain asset system. And, finally, there was the story of a working HTM manager who decided to retire early, rather than face the uphill struggle of his department’s changing reporting structure. 

Going It Alone

The overwhelming theme was the amount of uncertainty—yes, a lot of change, and lots of stress. New technologies are bringing a new level of complexity to our jobs as they integrate with other systems. And as we know, with respect to Moore’s Law, technology is going to keep advancing beyond some of our skill-sets. 

When working with these folks, they felt a sense of isolation. They had to investigate and solve problems on their own. Even though each hospital seemed to have similar challenges, the technicians I encountered felt like they had to work within their respective teams. 

But at the same time, these folks are still delivering. They are viewed as superstars—technology leaders for their respective hospitals. They are deeply concerned with patient care. They are responding quickly to the needs of their patients, as well as the clinicians who serve them. They are problem-solvers that bring their many years of experience and diverse backgrounds to each service call and handle whatever challenge is thrown their way. When working with these HTM professionals, I couldn’t help but sense that they were left to deal with many obstacles alone.   

Finding a Community 

Here’s what I want to tell my fellow HTM professionals: We are not alone. We have wonderful organizations, such as AAMI and the American College of Clinical Engineering (ACCE), along with many local HTM societies that allow us to network and share ideas. I would also say our respective hospitals, ISOs, and equipment manufacturers have platforms for sharing ideas and best practices. 

If you haven’t, I would encourage you to reach out to these organizations and platforms. Once you’ve made connections, share your stories and seek out solutions. I know from my experience with the CMMS project that hospitals throughout the region had similar challenges. 

But also make sure to help those who may not be able to attend meetings or conferences. Perhaps you could develop your own small network or group to help facilitate idea-exchange and sharing of best practices. Also, with the world truly at your fingertips, seek and access ideas via the web (i.e., AAMI and ACCE’s websites) LinkedIn, and other social media avenues. 

I know it’s easy to get in the daily grind. But we should be able to reach out and help our brothers and sisters in HTM who may need help or simply a listening ear. 

Our colleagues in HTM are rock-stars. They face challenges day in and day out. So I urge you to share your challenges with one another—or at least be there to listen to each another. Because by being there for one other, you may be able to positively impact your colleagues while positively impacting patient care. Remember: We are all in this together. 

Technology is moving fast. Let’s help each other best use this technology safely for our patients and for those that care for them. 

Jeffrey Ruiz is technology manager with Trimedx for a large hospital, and also is an adjunct professor in the biomedical engineering program at a community college, both in western Michigan. Questions and comments can be directed to 24×7 Magazine chief editor Keri Forsythe-Stephens at [email protected].