Maggie Berkey: How Can Apprenticeships Address the HTM Talent Shortage?

It’s no secret that the healthcare technology management industry is facing a human resources crisis. Statistics show that 60% of the current workforce is over 52 years of age. At the same time, we are watching HTM educational programs close their doors. The need for skilled talent is being felt everywhere.

Last year, our division lead was on site for a quality audit. I was asked about our plan to clean up the “mess” that has been piling up in our shop. I responded with the first thought that came to mind—I said that “if you get me a student, we will not only clean up the shop, I will build you a technician.” Leadership encouraged me to make this happen.

It was around that same time that AAMI was asking for “Shark Tank” proposals for the AAMI Exchange. I composed a few thoughts about how to build an entry level technician through an “on-the-job training” or OJT approach. My husband gave me the idea of looking into apprenticeships, as other fields have seen success with this training method.

In researching this idea, I contacted the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to get some guidance and direction on building a formally recognized apprenticeship for the HTM industry. I was surprised to find out that there was already a BMET apprenticeship on the books, but its OJT outline hadn’t been utilized since the 1990s. It would need updating to say the least!

The more I spoke with colleagues about apprenticeships, the more confident I was that this approach could help bridge some gaps our industry is facing. An apprenticeship does not replace formal education, however, the educational credits earned can be used towards a degree. The new OJT outline would DOL include competencies aligned with AAMI’s Core Competencies as well as those for the Certified Biomedical Equipment Technician (CBET). Wages will be determined by region, and the program can encompass both Union and Non-Union facilities. This approach allows qualified individuals to be hired and trained locally wherever there is a need.

Some other benefits to this approach include:

  • Employers. The facility hires local candidates; this is critical in rural areas. Local candidates are more likely to stay at the hiring facility long term. The apprentice will be trained on site with the equipment they will ultimately be responsible for.
  • Employees. The apprenticeship is a full-time paid position from day one. Apprentices have the ability to stay in the location of their choice. Little or no student debt will be carried by the apprentice as the program and education is paid for by employers. Apprentices will earn desirable credentials that are transferable. This option is ideal for career changers!
  • AAMI and the HTM Industry. The current workforce will be cross-training the next generation, thus more acquired knowledge will be retained and passed on. A nationwide curriculum utilizing the Core Competencies will produce more consistent HTM professionals, many earning the CBET certification.

Since my presentation at the HTM Shark Tank in 2019, AAMI formed a subcommittee within the Technology Management Council to focus on this initiative. Our goals included creating the framework for the apprenticeship through the required OJT outline. This group also determined the educational requirements for apprentices as well as identified requirements for being an apprentice and an apprenticeship mentor.

We used several current AAMI resources to ensure consistency and relied on a diverse team of BMET professionals to guide us in shaping the competencies desired in entry level BMETs. We’ve submitted our required items for this apprenticeship program to be recognized by the DOL, a process that is expected to take some time to complete, but will be well worth the wait!

If you are interested in learning more about this initiative or hosting an apprentice, please contact me or Danielle McGeary or myself.

Margaret Berkey, BMET, AAS, LEOT, is a senior BMET at Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney, NE, and a member of the Technology Management Council.

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