Have you ever seen a bucket of crabs or crawdads? You can put them all in the bucket and not worry about any escaping because as one tries to crawl up and out of the bucket, the others grab it and pull it back. It’s akin to a mindset of, “If I can’t have it, neither can you.” While there are many exceptions, I often feel that this mentality applies, unfortunately, to the HTM community.
Too often, we’re holding ourselves back, pulling ourselves back into the bucket, instead of moving ahead and taking advantage of new opportunities.
Our field started with many tinkerers with a can-do attitude. It has morphed over the years, but the fiercely independent streak still survives. We have seen it with the debates over certification (and licensure) and the move to name the field healthcare technology management. Some people don’t like change. Others will always believe that they are right and everyone else is wrong. Others may be intrigued, even excited, by the prospect of change, but they lack a professional foundation and support, so they are afraid to take a chance, worried that it may wind up shutting them out of the field that they love. In the end, such thinking can leave us like the bucket of crabs or crawdads; nobody moves ahead.
So how can we change? To start, we must embrace new ways of thinking.
Lean principles call for “standardized work.” This concept means everyone doing something does it same way. This approach reduces waste, including mistakes. Something else to keep in mind is the aphorism, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good,” which means it is better to implement something good, even if it has some flaws, than to analyze an idea to death in an endless quest for the perfect solution.
Both of these concepts have relevance to our jobs today and our futures tomorrow. Our field is being attacked because we do not have consistent standards. Regulators and lawmakers can sometimes cast a critical eye at the HTM field, asking about the basis, or the supporting data, for our practices and policies. Many other healthcare fields make changes that are “evidence-based” and are rejecting some practices that have been “traditional.” We should be doing the same thing.
There are several initiatives in the works that are striving to move the HTM field forward, and I hope you will get involved. Here are a few opportunities:
- There are several standards being developed now for the HTM community. They include one focusing on healthcare technology acquisition and another seeking to develop a common vocabulary for medical equipment management programs and processes.
- AAMI’s Technology Management Council (TMC) has task forces with focuses on career development, regulatory matters, standards development, and promoting the field. The TMC also has two committees meeting on reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) and supportability (including competence).
- Education is another challenge. Some schools with HTM programs are closing. Those that are up and running would benefit by hearing from the professionals on the frontlines. You could volunteer to be a teacher, guest speaker, or take on interns.
- Getting certified by the AAMI Credentials Institute (ACI) is a great way to demonstrate your credibility and commitment. If you are already certified, volunteer to get involved by writing questions.
If you don’t like the direction any of these items are heading, get involved! If you do like their direction and you support them, get involved! Together, we can help each other get out of that bucket and move the HTM field forward—and stop acting like crabs and crawdads.
For more information or to find out how to get involved with the TMC, contact Patrick Bernat, director of healthcare technology management at AAMI, via email at PBernat@aami.org or by phone at (703) 525-4890, ext. 1268. To learn about volunteer opportunities in general at AAMI, please visit this volunteer page.
Paul Kelley, CBET, is director of biomedical engineering, the Green Initiative, and asset redeployment at Washington Hospital in Fremont, CA. He is a member of the AAMI Board of Directors.