Barbara Christe: Educators, Is this ‘Survivor’? HELP Us!

A recent article suggested that HTM-related education may be a “dying breed,” and I couldn’t agree more. That scares me! With programs closing around me and educators retiring, I know that our profession is in trouble—and I know our profession can do things to help.

Picture driftwood on the beach, carefully laid out by educators, spelling HELP. It is time!

What can you do? First, don’t settle! Don’t hire the person with the least-visible tattoos. Set high expectations, including a college degree. We work in an environment where credentials are evidence of quality (let’s not discuss whether that is a valid premise, it is what it is), so seek quality.

Second, when quality applicants don’t knock on your door, research possible academic sources. What programs are around you? Does the program explore important topics such as patient safety? Ask! What do they need? Could you help support the start a HTM-related program? Trust me, many of us who teach are happy to help expand the academic offerings across the country. What does it take to start a program? Trust me, I know and will share. Think educator alliances. Think professional tribes.

Next, accept interns. Yes, offer clinical experience to students without it. You wouldn’t want a fresh nursing graduate to be hired without patient-care experience. I do understand mentoring isn’t easy. I do understand you are short staffed. But, please, don’t say no to interns (especially when you don’t have to pay them). Think long term. Pay it forward.

Lastly, insist that your third-party vendors, service providers, and manufacturers support HTM-related education programs. Do they fund HTM scholarships? Ask! Have you seen the television commercials to promote the nursing profession? Paid for by hospitals? Nope. Promoting the profession is a task for everyone. AAMI can only do so much (and is a great start). The effort needs to be collaborative with some muscle behind it.

The profession, and ultimately patient care, will “pay” a high price if the torch of quality academic programs is snuffed out. I’ll be speaking about academic quality and how you can help at the upcoming AAMI Annual Conference & Expo in Austin, TX. You can also email me at if you’d like to exchange ideas. Let the tribe speak!

Barbara Christe, PhD, is the program director of healthcare engineering technology management and an associate professor with the Engineering Technology Department at Purdue School of Engineering & Technology at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis, IN.

5 thoughts on “Barbara Christe: Educators, Is this ‘Survivor’? HELP Us!

  1. This shortsightedness is a problem throughout the country. Investment in youth is the only hope for the future.
    As a senior R&D and production engineer I know that it takes two to five years of on-the-job training to turn even the most gifted graduates into productive engineers. This is the same for any field. College prepares you to start a career; it is not the same as real training, be it an internship or a low-level position under a mentor.
    As the products I design become more complex, they require more training and experience of the persons dealing with them on a daily basis.
    As I look to the next generations of products, I rely on trained professionals for guidance. There is no replacement for a person entering a field with the correct tools. We must all support investment in our future.

  2. Hospital-based clinical engineering lacks innovation and entrepreneurship that clinical staff and equipment users can readily identify with. One of the issues, from my experience, is that there is very little support from colleagues within the industry to support and implement anything developed in-house commercially. Maybe it has something to do with the age profile and our risk-adverse nature( I have worked in hospitals for many year). Change is painfully slow.

    In some countries and organizations, biomeds still have their heads buried in the ground and use electrical safety testing and the tagging process as KPI. Again, from my experience, I have yet to meet a clinician who cares about it. Sadly, this and many key HTM issues which allow us to avoid clinical, and more-importantly nursing staff at all costs, has got us to where we are today. I have had dealings within the biomed community in three different OECD countries, and it’s more of the same.

    Encourage hospital-based engineering solutions, and support those individuals who stick their necks out financially. To create a workable solution for any real hospital based-issue is expensive, time consuming and, at some point , a full-time job. It can’t be done for free ( or love ), which is the expectation from many hospital-based biomeds.

  3. Barbara,

    I have recently accepted an adjunct position at our local community college. I am trying to bring the program up to today’s standards. What help or guidance can you provide to help me improve the curriculum.

    Thank you, Jeff

    • Happy to help, Jeff. So pleased you are working to expand academic offerings!! A great first step is to look at the AAMI curriculum guide available for free download from the AAMI Store. In addition, I hope you’ll consider emailing me directly so we can get started!

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