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Training the HTM workforce of tomorrow

por John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | May 03, 2021
From the May 2021 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Last year, Danielle McGeary saw nine training programs for biomedical engineering technicians (BMETs) close at universities across the U.S. This, she says, has become common due to lack of enrollment, with some programs only recruiting two or three people a year. “Academic institutions have to make revenue off their programs and if people aren’t enrolling in them, they aren’t going to stay,” McGeary, vice president of health technology management for AAMI, told HCB News.

As a result, a deficit of trained BMETs is creating challenges for clinical engineering departments at many hospitals. This has elicited concerns for the profession as over 60% of the workforce is beyond 50 and inching closer to retirement in the next 10-15 years. To prevent an even wider deficit, AAMI has teamed up with the U.S. Department of Labor to establish the national BMET apprenticeship program, designed to recruit entry level professionals into the roles of BMETs.

Ending the deficit
The national BMET apprenticeship program is the brainchild of biomed Margaret (“Maggie”) Berkey. For years, Berkey noticed a lack of individuals studying to become BMETs as well as a lack of “vital encounters” among those who were training for the profession. “The number one problem that we’ve been facing for longer than I’ve been in the field is that nobody knows about biomeds, healthcare technology management,” she said. “This is the best kept secret in the world.”

She presented her idea at the AAMI annual conference in 2019 before the HTM shark tank — an AAMI version of the popular TV show — and connected the association with the U.S. Department of Labor. Together, the two organizations came up with a structure for the apprenticeship and submitted it for regulatory approval, which it obtained in March of this year.

Under the program, trainees will receive 4,000 to 6,000 hours of paid, on-the-job training in safety, electronics, anatomy, and information technology. BMET employers interested in participating can enroll with AAMI and begin posting apprenticeship positions and hiring apprentices. Those interested in becoming an apprentice simply apply to the open positions posted and once hired, are trained on a curriculum developed by AAMI and vetted by over 100 HTM professionals. Overseeing them are senior BMETs who provide hands-on opportunities to get them ready for the real world upon completion of their apprenticeship.

The U.S. Department of Labor will audit the program to ensure it is running smoothly and has listed it in its national apprenticeship database. AAMI will jumpstart recruitment by connecting with high school guidance counselors across the country, especially those in STEM, Magnet and Charter schools. But McGeary says BMET employer participation is key. “If there are no participating employers, there will be no apprentices.”

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