During a recent discussion with several respected biomed colleagues, the topic of certification came up. There was mix of certified and noncertified biomedical equipment technicians at the table, some with bachelor’s degrees and others with associate’s degrees. We considered a couple of questions:
- “Does being certified make you a better biomed?”
- Would you choose a CBET (with lesser skills) over a non-certified biomedical equipment technician (with great skills) to answer a tough or important call with lots riding on the person who answers the call?
That second question is tough, to say the least. My answer, by the way, is that I would send the biomed with the best ability to answer the call irrespective of certification or degrees.
But the discussion got me thinking about an even larger question: What makes up a great biomed?
Let me be upfront: I am an advocate for certification and sit on the ACI CBET Scheme Board. So please read my comments with that in mind.
Similar to getting a higher education degree, such as a bachelor’s or master’s degree, taking and passing certification exams for a biomedical equipment technician (CBET), laboratory equipment specialist (CLES), or radiology equipment specialist (CRES) shows a level of commitment and dedication. I know many noncertified biomeds who are completely dedicated to their jobs and profession. If those folks suddenly decided to take and pass a certification test, it would not automatically make them even better because they were already great.
The reverse is also true. If a struggling biomed were to take the CBET exam and pass, that fact alone does not automatically make him or her a better biomed, although I would hope that preparing for the exam would raise level of performance. Also, it’s important to note that becoming a CBET will result in a higher salary in most cases, and a certified technician may be considered first for a higher-level position, so there is value for a biomed to become certified.
Still, what makes a great biomed if certification and higher degrees in and of themselves are not the answers? There are several factors to consider:
- Engagement is key. Individuals who are apathetic about their jobs will never be stars. If a person cares about what he or she is doing, that person is far more apt to do a better job. Plus, always remember who we are doing are jobs for—the patients. A caring and engaged professional will be a better fit than someone who may be highly technical but does not seem to care.
- Communication skills are so important. My experience leads me to conclude that one “truth” about being a biomed is that our success depends to a large extent on relationships. We must work with each other, our clinical partners, such as nurses, and the C-suite—not to mention the patients and families. Communicating what we do, what is needed, and how we best contribute to patient care is vital. Communicating well under pressure is especially valuable because a person’s character comes to the surface under pressure.
- Flexibility is a very important factor because it’s not uncommon to be asked to do something that you have never done before. (As a manager, you may do the asking.) You will be asked to work long hours and weekends. Finding such flexibility in biomeds can difficult because we all have busy lives, but having that quality will make a biomed more valuable to his or her organization.
- Willingness to learn. No one come out of the womb a great biomed. One is taught this trade. Biomeds who can drop their egos long enough to learn will thrive, and colleagues and supervisors will want them on their teams. The learning should never stop, even among those of us who have years of experience. There is much to learn from our younger colleagues, and I approach learning with a sense of gratitude. Try to learn something new every day.
- Technical ability is, of course, very important, but notice it was not first on my list. There are those out there with incredible technical skills, but they have trouble in engaging co-workers and colleagues in other departments. I think that being a great biomed involves a marriage between the hard technical skills and the softer people skills.
- A great team player is humble, hungry, and knows how to deal with people. Such folks are easy to spot. They help without being asked, they take on stretch roles, and perform their tasks with a great attitude. Humility is crucial as there are plenty of strong personalities in the biomed field, and a little modesty is greatly accepted.
- Solid Core Value. What does this mean? Start by considering that biomeds work on medical devices that may be needed by your family or friends. So, expecting this person to have the basic values or honesty and caring is a given. You want a person who shows up on time, performs quality work, and gets along with others. One way to determine this core value is to go to a dinner or lunch with people and see how they treat the staff. Are they kind or rude? True tells.
- Education. Our field is growing and getting more complex. Like it or note, having an associate’s degree or more is an attractive quality. Education is last on my list because it is not the most important quality for me, but it does matter to HR when looking for the next great biomed.
I have just scratched the surface, but if you can find most of these qualities in someone, then the odds are you have a pretty good biomed (certified or not, higher degree or not). What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts as this topic has always generated great debates with my colleagues over the years.
Donald Armstrong, CBET, CHTM, works in the Clinical Technology and Biomedical Engineering Department at Stanford Health Care in California. He is a member of AAMI’s Technology Management Council.