A lot of biomeds seem to be afraid of a merger with IT and believe it will be a bad thing. At St Mary’s Hospital, Green Bay, Wis, we do not see it that way. I wish more biomeds would open up to the fact that it will happen whether they like it or not. My take is, either get on board and accept it, or you may just get left behind.
I have to admit that I too have wondered about the structure and abilities of both departments to co-exist as one, but after carefully taking notes and opening up to the idea, I have found that there is one overwhelming reason to welcome the IT integration—job security. The “smart” biomeds are taking on this integration opportunity to either advance their careers toward management, or have much higher job security in the biomedical field. Think about it. If a knowledgeable biomed with IT skills is asked to network two devices, it can easily be done. Ask an IT analyst to fix a ventilator and you see the look of a deer in headlights. The person capable of multitasking and crossing over job titles or descriptions will win out. The transition is easy if you just try to keep an open mind.
I’ve been fortunate to work with an IT department here that is the exception to the rule, but the changes are coming fast and furious. We’ve already started the preliminary integration, and it is indeed somewhat scary. The main issue is that most IT people really do not know what we do every day, so they think we are not smart enough to understand what IT is or does. Yet, we do know what they do and we can do some of their jobs with minimal training. Here at St Mary’s, with the encouragement of our manager from TriMedx Corp, we are actively seeking our Network + certification and our A+ certification. We are not doing this on the preface that biomed will take over IT, but rather from IT taking us over. If you’re able to “talk the IT talk” and “walk the IT walk,” your value has increased by a factor of two with your IT coworkers. I am not saying we wish to take the jobs from our IT co-workers, but if asked to scale back the departments after integration, ask yourself one question: Where do you stand? Now that your skills have crossed that IT/biomed demilitarized zone, you can rest assured that you’re ready to handle the situation just by knowing basic IT networking and computer repair.
More systems are computer and network integrated, such as PACS and LIS systems, and this trend will most likely increase over the coming years. We are in an information world, and our hospitals and doctors need this information. Our IT co-workers have similar responsibilities to ours today. If my CR system has images to get to PACS for the doctor to view and the network is down, I bet the IT staff will have about 5 minutes to let the doctor know where the images are.
So what can you do to prepare for the future? Be prepared by helping with both IT and biomedical repairs, or at the very least be capable of assisting with IT issues. Take ownership in those IT integrated medical systems and not just those devices of the past. Simple IV pumps are being networked to get dosing information. Radiological systems connect to worklist servers. Wireless hubs are used for patient monitoring and portable imaging data transfer. If you’re not ready to handle these simple tasks or at least know what is involved with the tasks, you’re missing the boat. Our customers take notice of who does what when the going gets tough. Being the number one choice for service, be it biomedical or IT related, is an honor.
Have you ever wondered why, at times, it seems like you’re doing someone else’s job? I did. Then I realized it’s because I wanted it done on my terms and my way. Not someone else’s. I took personal ownership for the system. I started the repair, and I ended the repair. I decided the schedule, the pace, and the time. This is exactly what our customers want and expect. One-call shopping, so to speak. They have an issue, we find the solution, and they are free to do what they do best—treat the patient.
Comment on the related “Solidifying Job Security” blog.
Who would you rather have on board when scaling back or making decisions going forward? It is much easier to learn networking than it is physiological systems, for example. Think hard about the possibilities of future biomed-IT integration and you can see huge cost savings for your facility and a much better working condition for all. We biomeds are here to serve and provide a safe environment for our patients. We strive to be the best and come up with better ways to save money and to improve uptime. We don’t care who helps us achieve our goals. Let’s just get the job done.
I love my job, and love the feeling of satisfaction I get when I fix one of my systems. Yes, I said one of my systems. That’s what ownership is. That is what I strive for by knowing my systems from both the biomedical and IT perspectives. That is why I do what I do. If you’re not actively looking for ways to improve either yourself or your department, then you stopped being what we have always been—the “go to guy!”
Paul McNamara is an imaging specialist at St Mary’s Hospital, Green Bay, Wis. For more information, contact .
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