Donald Armstrong: For Career Growth, Give Management a Shot

Do I want to take on a management role, or am I happiest in a staff position? Many biomeds will face this question in their careers, especially if they’ve been working in the field for more than five years. To give this question some context, consider these facts:

  • There are 5,564 hospitals in the United States, according to the American Hospital Association.
  • There are approximately 47,000 biomedical equipment technicians (although we are called medical equipment repairers) servicing these hospitals, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BL).
  • BLS predicts a 5% job growth rate in the field between 2016-2026.

Someone in each of these hospitals oversees the biomed department, and someone is doing the “boots on the ground” work. Where do you want to fit? The same kind of question applies to those who work for independent service organizations (ISOs). Do you want to pursue a management position?

To start, let me draw a distinction between management and leadership. I truly believe we are all leaders. Most clinicians I’ve met will tell you the same thing; they rarely ever meet the manager or director of our department, but they really know the biomeds in their area.

Being a staff-level biomed is one of the most rewarding jobs you could ever have. You interact with the clinical team, the patients, and the public. You are making a positive difference in people’s lives on the front lines. It is can also be a tough and demanding job, but it is an honorable career (it is my career) and one that can change lives.

Still, you may want to one day pursue a management role. Sometimes moving up means you may have to move on to a new hospital, company, or state, and that is very tough. But I have done it. While difficult, it was a growth experience, and I learned more than I could have ever imagined.  If you ever get the chance to manage, I highly recommend you give it a shot.

It is critical to get some training as soon as you take a management position as it involves different skills than being a biomed (even at the highest level). I recommend The Leadership Challenge, a book by James Kouzes and Barry Posner. It has many real-world examples of everyday leadership challenge and strategies.

Donald Armstrong, CBET, CHTM, works for Stanford Health Care in California. He is a member of AAMI’s Technology Management Council.

3 thoughts on “Donald Armstrong: For Career Growth, Give Management a Shot

  1. Good article. In my opinion, those who don’t think they will be a good manager should be taken at their word. Those that say they don’t want to be in charge, either have been and found their limitations or have not had the chance yet and have seen the nightmare it has the potential of being. I think everyone has to be tested in the management position, to learn what it is like. They will become more respectful of it or find they are managerial material. Those who want to be managers are not good managers, unless they have been at the bottom doing the grunt work and working their way through the ranks. This way, they can be good teacher and example for their subordinates.
    I found that I am not a good manager as I could not get my staff motivated and the paperwork was overwhelming for a 300-bed facility that is understaffed. AKA working manager, this does not work out well. I am a self starter but, a manager I am not. A man has got to know his limitations, as said by Harry Callahan. I have been a team lead and fairly successful at that.
    Good team leads are very hard to find. They often know more than the managers and work better with the team, much like the sergeants and the lieutenants in the military.
    I am in a team of “1” so I get to do the managers works and the team tasks. For me, this is a good position to be in, thus far.


  2. Totally agree that we need have more folks move up through the ranks. To make this change, it may require a person to take a job with another company as some companies are not that great at promoting within. This also points to the need for biomeds to dedicate themselves to the concept of “lifelong learning” and that learning needs to be more than just technical concepts. I highly recommend younger folks maintain a journal of courses they take (not part of a college program unless you are planning to get an advanced degree). If you you don’t have a upper-level degree, but you have a journal of courses and activities that shows you are learning about management subjects, it will help.

  3. Good one, Don! I thoroughly enjoyed working as a front-line engineer. The opportunity to interact with wide variety of personalities on the clinical and non-clinical areas was a fantastic experience. I took a chance or some may call it a risk moving to a new city and state and a very different role. This growth has helped me better my technical and leadership skills and also find new challenging ways to think out of the box. For those new to management, I cannot stress the importance of training and adapting to new skills. To add to your list, two interesting books I read:
    1. First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham
    2. Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry

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