By Ray Marden, CBET, CHTM

Finding the right internship can be a challenging part of getting started in any business, and healthcare technology management (HTM) is no exception. The following struggle is from a colleague who graduated from a well-known tech school a few years back:

“Hi, I want to share some of the challenges I experienced during my internship. There was a very limited number of opportunities available for all of the students looking for biomedical internships. I was able to intern at a sleep lab in the bay area. It was a paid internship for $100 a week, and I was tasked with performing electrical safety for their equipment and performing some cosmetic repairs. This was all new to me at the time, and I received very little guidance from my school regarding my duties. I learned a lot about how a sleep lab runs but very little in regards to my future biomedical role. I had to provide all of the test equipment myself, which can be difficult on a full-time student wage. Overall, I wished that there was more hands-on training and that there was already a biomed at the facility who I could've shadowed instead of becoming their onsite biomed tech.”

Experiences like this are quite common. As you can imagine, it is not an easy task to take newly-qualified or underqualified people into the environment of care with complicated equipment on complicated work schedules. Those complications are then compounded in HTM by factors such as a lack of qualified staff with the availability to train and supervise interns. Some shops are short-staffed and cannot afford the time and attention necessary for a successful internship. Some have outright policies stating that they are not to allow internships in their facility. Some only really need help in areas that are out of the scope of most interns.

Finding a successful internship starts at your school. Find your champion!

Despite the apparent lack of access and availability for quality internships, students can help themselves by knowing how a good partnership between the student, the health care employer and the education institution should look.

The first thing to know as a student is that you need a champion at your educational institution – someone who sees your value and wants to see their program succeed. Start by identifying who that person is and building a strong relationship with them. That person will need to work with you throughout the process of acquiring the internship, as well as monitoring your success with the proctor site during and after the internship.

Some institutions have an externship built into the degree program and take pride in their graduate placement rates. If you are still considering a school, ask about this process. Some schools actually publish their recent graduation rates.

For example, the College of Biomedical Equipment Technology (CBET) boasts a 90% job placement rate within 30 days of graduation for their 150-200 grads per year.

The school’s President, Dr. Richard L. “Monty” Gonzales says,

“Students engaging in internships have an opportunity to learn directly from industry leaders and mentors willing to champion and support their introduction to the health care industry. Internships provide an amazing opportunity for both employers seeking to build a talent pipeline and students pursuing careers as HTM professionals.  

There are three important elements to an effective internship, three legs of the stool, including the student, the employer/partner and the educational institution. Effective externships require all three elements to work together towards a common objective. For our students, we focus on competency in an experiential environment, which means students putting their hands on equipment in a real-world environment.

For example, we have partnered with Medical Imaging Solutions (MIS), an imaging company with locations in Georgia and Nevada. MIS has agreed to provide a paid internship of up to four to six months to support our students' experiential learning requirements and validate their proficiency in a wide range of competency areas. Students in the CBET/MIS internship engage daily in an active facility from professionals with decades of experience.”

Their program also has a built-in resume builder that constructs a real-time experiential resume for each student. Gonzales says that this helps provide relevant training in an easy-to-see format for would-be employers and serves as a skill-vetting document.

If you choose to attend or are already enrolled in a school that doesn’t offer internships, consider creating a profile on LinkedIn and begin engaging HTM leaders there. Create a brand for yourself. Over time people will see what you are learning and learn a little about you. There is a lot of support in HTM for sincere communication via social media.

You could also join your state HTM organization and attend the local meetings to get the dialogue going if you find that internships are lacking in your area. Bring your education champion in on this process. Together you can pave the way for yourself and others.

If you are coming from a military background, many service companies are working with the DoD Skill-Bridge program. Learn more here: dodskillbridge.usalearning.gov.

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