Sees Need for Uniform Job Titles and Descriptions
After three days of spirited debate and discussion at the Future Forum II, hosted by AAMI, a group of healthcare technology management (HTM) professionals agreed on a broad series of steps to advance the field, including recognizing a need for uniform job titles and descriptions.
While the 23 participants did not agree on every job description—and much work remains to be done—there was a general consensus that HTM professionals need to assert themselves in new ways and help guide their facilities through a landscape changing ever faster by technological advances.
“We have to take on a leadership role as opposed to our traditional advisor role,” said Daniel DeMaria, biomedical engineering manager at Olathe Medical Center in Olathe, KS.
A student, clinical engineers, biomedical equipment technicians, educators, and other experts attended the forum, which ended Sept. 12. It was part of an effort by AAMI to increase recognition of HTM professionals and the vital role they play in healthcare.
The first Future Forum was held last year, and the result was a vision for the future and a name for the profession in HTM. This year’s forum built on those results.
As they did last year, participants challenged one another to consider how best to advance the work of HTM professionals and prepare them for an even greater role in modern healthcare. Toward the end of the forum, much of the discussion centered on the question of job titles and descriptions, with a general belief that a lack of consistency can undermine efforts to win broader recognition for HTM professionals.
The attendees reached consensus on standard job titles for a department leader: director or chief of HTM.
There was a livelier debate on the job title for an entry-level position: healthcare technology technician or healthcare technology specialist.
Some were concerned that the term “specialist” should only be reserved for professionals who have experience. “We define our most advanced technical people as a specialist,” said DeMaria, referring to his facility. “How do we recognize the people who have come up and are true specialists in the industry?”
On the other hand, Barrett Franklin said the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs moved away from the term “technician” for its job titles in favor of specialist.
“Technician has the connotation that you are turning a wrench,” said Franklin, chief clinical engineer for the VA’s New England Healthcare System.
An ad-hoc committee was formed to further discuss these titles and other alternatives. As a practical matter, individual healthcare facilities determine job titles and descriptions as they see fit. Future Forum participants hope the suggestions for uniform titles and descriptions will help to bring a great understanding and appreciation for the work of HTM professionals.
The forum, held at AAMI’s headquarters in Arlington, VA, was filled with often intense debates, punctuated by laughter and exercises aimed at building a consensus on how to move forward. Participants identified ways to help increase an HTM department’s status in its facility, including:
- Provide annual reports to the C-Suite, such as a clinical device replacement prioritization list, which can help develop budgets. This gives hospital management “objective data as opposed to nursing and doctors saying they need to replace this device for the new one,” says Heidi Horn, vice president of Clinical Engineering Services for SSM Integrated Health Technologies in St. Louis, MO.
- The development of a career ladder to chart the steps an entry-level HTM professional must take to reach a C-Suite position. The career ladder would emphasize the importance of financial knowledge, said Jack McNerny, biomedical engineer with Ethicon Endo-Surgery in Cincinnati, OH. This includes the financial implications of implementing new technology, and “how to manage hospital dollars and resources to the greatest value,” he said.
- Collaboration with information technology (IT) departments. HTM departments need to address service level agreements, which define the amount of service for a device, for converging technologies, said Steven Yelton, chairman of the Electrical Engineering Technologies Department in the Center for Innovative Technologies at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College in Cincinnati, OH.
Yelton said standards can be developed to help HTM and IT departments define the responsibilities for these agreements.
AAMI President Mary Logan said the forum produced “a great understanding of other perspectives. Transitions are hard. Healthcare is in transition, the field is in transition, and technology is in transition.”
Added Ray Laxton, chair of AAMI’s Board of Directors and vice president of strategic partnerships at ARAMARK Healthcare Technologies in Charlotte, NC: “There was disagreement on specific points, but complete agreement on the end goal.” That goal? “Defining what we want to be.”
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