By Ray Marden, CBET, CHTM

Choosing a career in HTM means you’ll be working with the coolest technologies in medicine. That’s a given. But there’s more to choosing a career path than the types of technology that interest you. What lifestyle is right for you? Where do you want HTM to take you?

There are two very different lifestyle paths in HTM. There are less trodden paths as well; little rabbit-trails of micro-niche opportunities, but at some point, most HTM professionals will have to choose between an in-house or field-service based position.

It’s a good idea to consider the day-in-the-life of a position before applying for or accepting your next role. After all it is what you’ll be doing every single day.

So, which is right for you?

Before deciding, know your limitations and set intentions for your career path. This is especially critical when taking on field assignments where you’ll often operate autonomously. Once you’ve identified where you intend for your path to lead, and what skills and abilities you really have to offer, you can begin to take in other factors as you make a decision. Each path offers incredible possibilities.

Rhiannon Thurmond, biomedical supervisor with Ultimate Biomedical Solutions, has worked in both roles. She offers the following advice for consideration.

There are a few differences I have seen between being an in-house biomed versus a field-service engineer in my 15-year tenure in the industry,” Thurmond says. “If you have a family and want a set Monday-Friday schedule with minimal driving, then working in a hospital may be right for you. I found that, while being in a hospital setting, I got to touch a lot of the same devices routinely. So, I became quite efficient working through the basics. There were also other senior biomeds present to mentor me as an entry-level technician whereas in field-service you work on your own and really need to have the basics down to be successful. Working in a hospital really allows an entry-level technician to learn how hospitals work.”

Rhiannons’s perspective points out that it is important to be honest with yourself about your capacities before deciding on a path. How much support, training, human interaction and supervision do you need daily? If these needs are high, an in-house position can be a good place for you regardless of your lifestyle choice.

Remember, it’s also crucial that your career goals are clear! Don’t lose sight of them. Choosing a position based only on lifestyle can have a serious impact on your career progression. In fact, some positions may seem to freeze your career progression altogether.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. A career pause may be okay, if you’ve decided it’s a great fit for your life. 

In fact, it may be just what you and your career need.

During an interview for an in-house position at a remote island hospital I was once asked, “Why do you want to work here? It’s career suicide!” There were four people ahead of me for the next promotion which was not slotted to become available for some 20 years. There was no training budget, and the job included a huge pay cut with no raises likely in the foreseeable future. To top it off there were no other health care providers on the island. On paper, it was the worst career move I could make.

I took the job. Furlough days and all. I was confident that my career could sustain the pause.

For years field-service had been a dream come true. The travel! The excitement! The responsibility! The freedom! But over the years I started feeling used up and drained. My lifestyle needed to change.

This new position reinvigorated me. In fact, I used the freed-up energy and the support of the new daily rhythm to bring new things into my own life. I learned to garden and woodwork, I practiced writing and learned to keep sheep. For the first time in my career, I was achieving life goals.

Some positions can support and enable achieving mid-life goals in ways that high-speed jobs with lots of growth opportunities cannot.

After years in gridlock on interstates, I valued the short seaside commute. After 10 years of exciting solo travels in field-service, I craved the friendship of shop-mates. After managing a huge geographical territory, I wanted a small island hospital and a handful of rural clinics to tend to. After working long hours with lots of overtime, I wanted to be home consistently for dinner with my kids. After enjoying mastering a few devices for an OEM (one of the highlights of OEM work is that you really get to master your equipment), I craved the technical diversity of in-house life and desired to keep my general BMET skills sharp. When I noticed the need for change, my priorities shifted. I opened my eyes to new options.

There are as many reasons for doing this job as there are people doing it. And it seems that differing roles can support you in differing ways throughout your life and career. Examine the possibilities that each position offers your lifestyle and your career.

Once your career and life goals are established and balanced, you’ll have more insight into how each role you consider can help you achieve them.

It’s pretty fun that our HTM talents are needed everywhere here on earth and even beyond, though space will have to be someone else’s territory!

It seems there is so much opportunity that we get to decide where and in which environments we work! The opportunities are nearly endless with medical equipment deployed everywhere from Antarctica to the International Space Station!

Walk two blocks to the medical center or board a ship to the south pole … you decide your commute! HTM will support you. Not many other careers can boast such diversity of experience.

Consider deeply the day-in-the-life of the position you are considering before you accept your next HTM role. You may end up happier, which will make you a better employee in the long run.

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