AAMI News December 2017
Survey Underscores Concerns with Finding High-Quality HTM Applicants
It is becoming more difficult to find and hire qualified healthcare technology management (HTM) professionals, according to an AAMI survey of employment trends, a challenge compounded by an aging workforce and the closure of a number of HTM-related education programs.
“I don’t think the quality of the applicants is very good,” said Greg Baker, system manager, biomedical engineering for Central Florida Health. “The techs are good people and want to learn, but they come in as extremely raw talent that needs significant molding to produce an effective HTM professional.”
This past fall, AAMI surveyed 23 of the largest hospitals and independent service organizations in the United States. These companies employ more than 9,000 HTM professionals, accounting for nearly 20% of all those employed in the field.
Trouble Filling Positions
Those surveyed said they hire, on average, 1,185 technicians and engineers each year. However, it’s taking more time to find qualified candidates than it did three years ago, according to 61% of respondents. On average, it takes about 90 days to fill an open position, though some employers reported that the hiring process can take up to nine months.
According to one respondent, difficulty or delays filling open HTM positions has contributed to “reduced quality of service,” “increased costs to the organization,” “workforce morale challenges,” and “insufficient succession planning.”
A Ripple Effect from Academic Changes
Hiring delays were mainly due to a shortage of qualified employees, which a number of survey respondents linked to the closure of several HTM academic programs.
“Because of lack of schools, and especially accredited programs, we are limited to looking at certificate programs in biomed, which do not provide the adequate technical knowledge to the prospective candidates,” said Haresh Satiani, COO of Renovo Solutions LLC. “This puts a lot of extra burden on employers to spend the necessary time and resources to bring them up to par.”
Other respondents cited a reduction in academic requirements and a lack of practical experience in the curriculum.
“I came from the Air Force 30 years ago and received extensive hands-on training throughout the learning process,” Baker said. “Today’s schools are mostly book knowledge with an internship at the end of the program.”
Replacing an Aging Workforce
The shrinking supply of skilled HTM professionals in the field comes as employers are bracing to hire even more technicians and engineers in the near future. About one in 10 employees at the surveyed organizations are currently 60 years or older. As a result, employers are looking for new ways to “grow their own” HTM professionals.
“We have had to think differently about talent, so we have spent time building out a robust apprentice program,” said Samantha Domenget, who works in human resources for GE Healthcare.
Educators also are looking at innovative ways to bolster HTM academic programs. Barbara Christe, the program director of healthcare engineering technology management at Indiana University–Purdue University in Indianapolis, and Steve Yelton, a professor of HTM at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College in Ohio, applied for a National Science Foundation planning grant this fall that would help create a national HTM education center.
“While the exact structure of the education center is yet to be determined, the need is real,” Yelton wrote on the AAMIBlog. “We hope that this grant will alleviate some of the challenges we face with our workforce pipeline and retirements.”