Sensing a need, HTM leader develops the first CHTM study course

TRIMEDX CHTMs and Senior Site Managers Angela Bennett and Jeff Ruiz were recently featured in an article as part of AAMI News highlighting their involvement in the development of the first CHTM study course. The published article, as it appeared April 12, 2023, is below.

This month (April 2023), more than 80 (and counting) healthcare technology management (HTM) professionals are coming together for a two-week study course to prepare for the 2023 Certified Healthcare Technology Manager (CHTM) exam in May. While the CHTM exam launched in 2016, and a study guide followed in 2017, this is the first time that certification candidates can take advantage of an AAMI CHTM Study Course and practice exam structured to help them prepare and succeed.

The study course is the brainchild of Angela Bennett, CHTM and senior site manager for TRIMEDX at a Baton Rouge, LA, health system. Two years ago, when Bennett herself was preparing to take the exam, she came up short in her efforts to study. “Other than the study guide, I had no real preparation. I wasn’t sure what to expect, what kind of questions or information was going to be on the exam,” she said. She was surprised that there was no CHTM Study Course, given that the AAMI Credentials Institute (ACI) does offer study courses for the Certified Biomedical Equipment Technician (CBET) and other certification exams.

“I knew there was a need,” Bennett said. So she took the matter into her own hands. “I knew there were other leaders who were in the same boat as I was. I wanted to help others who were struggling with the same lack of preparation and provide an opportunity for other leaders to bring their experience and knowledge to the table and share it with their peers.”

“We’re hearing quite a fever pitch of excitement and enthusiasm for the study course and practice exam,” said Jeff Ruiz, CHTM, senior site manager for TRIMEDX at a western Michigan health system. Ruiz and Bennett will be the lead instructors for the study course.

Ruiz, who earned his CHTM in 2019, reflected on his own journey toward certification to encourage HTM professionals to take the plunge. “I always kicked myself for not getting the CBET,” he said. “There’s such a sweet spot after you get your degree and then you have maybe a year or two under your belt in the industry. I missed that opportunity and didn’t take advantage of it. When I moved up into the management role, I said, ‘I gotta do this.’ Another incentive was Danielle McGeary’s article [“Don’t Let Fear Stand in the Way of Certification” by AAMI’s vice president of healthcare technology management]. “I studied hard, developing my own kind of test questions and flashcards, to help me get into the mindset.”

Finding an Audience—and a Partner in AAMI

The CHTM Study Course began as a PowerPoint presentation, which Bennett created from the study guide for the exam. She gauged interest in a free study group by “marketing it to her vast network of BMETs on LinkedIn and Facebook,” according to AAMI’s Martin McLaughlin, senior director of training.

Bennett’s inkling about the need for a study course proved spot on. Between 30 and 45 HTM professionals showed up virtually for Google Meet sessions she hosted—five weekly sessions, which covered each of the exam’s five sections—leading up to each testing window over the past two years.

“It was a chance for those who wanted to take the CHTM exam to gain knowledge about the test itself, such as the layout and what to expect, as well as gain general knowledge about what an HTM leader does,” Bennett said. “It was basically a study group, like in college where you come together, share your knowledge, input, thoughts, and opinions. We had experienced leaders, new leaders, and people who were interested in becoming leaders. We had an open forum at the end where participants could share their experience and resources that would help others prepare for their exam. It was a great spread of knowledge that was shared—and a great networking opportunity as well.”

AAMI took notice of this broad interest in the CHTM Study Course, reaching out to Bennett in late 2022 with an offer to acquire her content. “I was not expecting AAMI to want to be part of it, but I’m glad they are,” she said. “It’s very exciting.”

“For all AAMI courses, we either develop the content from scratch using a team of subject-matter experts [SMEs] or we acquire content, which we did for this course, and have a team of SMEs review and develop any additional content,” McLaughlin said. “Since Angie already had a successful course that she was hosting twice a year, we acquired her content.

“This is not the first time that AAMI has turned to leaders in the field to acquire content for an exam prep course,” McLaughlin added. “In 2019, AAMI acquired the CBET Study Course content from CABMET (Colorado Association of BMETS), which they had been successfully delivering multiple times each year to our test takers. That content was developed and taught by David Scott of UCHealth. He remains our lead instructor for the course alongside Don Armstrong of RENOVO.”

Bennett has been a full partner in updating the study course she created with new content that aligns with the outline for the new 2023 CHTM exam. “This is the first time this exam has been updated since its development in 2015 and launch in 2016,” McLaughlin said. “The form of this exam will be new after a year-long job task analysis.”

Bennett collaborated with Ruiz, a former colleague and mentor, on the updates to the CHTM Study Course, essentially performing a “gap analysis” between Bennett’s original study course and the new topics on the 2023 exam, Ruiz said. 

Ruiz developed the new 50-question practice exam, which participants can take at the end of the course and just before the May certification exam. The practice exam will let test takers know their strengths and areas for improvement, which will help them focus their final preparation to take the test. “If you are putting this much investment in yourself to take the exam, we want to give you as much help as we can to help you be prepared,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz had some related experience for developing the practice exam: Several years ago, he participated in a committee that reviewed the questions on the CHTM exam and the response rates, making recommendations to eliminate questions that were too easy or too challenging to get to a “just right” mix.

AAMI and the lead instructors are interested in feedback on the CHTM Study Course, practice exam, and certification exam, which they will use for continuous improvement. “We will continue to update the course as course takers and test takers give us feedback,” Bennett said. “We welcome feedback.”

Typically, certification designations are updated every five to seven years, depending on the nature of the content, McLauglin said. AAMI will be performing job task analyses for the CBET and the Certified Radiology Equipment Specialist (CRES) exams over the next two years to inform revisions to those exams.

The Increasing Value of HTM Certification

Bennett and Ruiz are enthusiastic about being at the center of action in developing and advancing the HTM field. “What kind of leader would I be if I didn’t share my experiences with getting certified, as well as helping those who are getting their certifications after me?” Bennett asked. “Angie and I both care about this industry,” Ruiz added. “We’re very big proponents of doing what we can to help others succeed.”

In her job at TRIMEDX, Bennett leads a shop of about 20 technicians spanning three hospitals and most clinics in her state, serves on hospital committees to ensure that HTM has a seat at the table for important conversations and decisions about patient safety, and mentors biomeds toward successful HTM careers. In that vein, she also encourages them to go after certification.

“If you are going head-to-head in a job interview and one individual is certified and one is not, if all things are equal as far as experience, certification is definitely a differentiator to position you for that role, for that opportunity,” Ruiz said.

He believes that the COVID-19 pandemic has elevated the value of CHTM certification. “If there’s anything we learned through the pandemic, it’s that we are really joined at the hip with our facilities folks and our IT folks. With all the committees and projects we’ve been involved with, when you have that CHTM at the end of your name, it gives you that added credibility that yes, you know what you’re talking about. You are a resource of technology management for the organization, and you’re able to share key insights. Employers definitely want to see these types of credentials, which show that we can take the initiative, represent ourselves as professionals, and speak at a professional level with peers on various projects and committees.”

Bennett believes that the value of certification is increasing as the field has evolved from the proverbial “basement dwellers” and maintenance staff to professionals with deep technical knowledge and specialties. “It’s only recently that we have really come into our own and made a name for our field.”

Certification should be part of that evolution. “In my personal opinion, the value of certification has increased over time for a few reasons,” Bennett said. “A lot of independent service providers, third-party HTM companies, and in-house shops are making it a requirement of their leaders. It’s important to them to show their partnering hospitals that they are experts in their fields as well as showing them that they are truly invested in their work and their teams that are doing the work.”

“Another reason certification is becoming more and more valuable is that hospital accreditation organizations are now sending surveyors appointed specifically to evaluate biomed and address medical equipment,” Bennett added. “We are the experts on regulatory requirements and medical equipment. Doctors and nurses have to keep their certifications up to take care of patients. Why should it be any different for us with medical equipment? If we’re truly going to make a statement that we play just as much of a role as a doctor or nurse in a hospital setting, we need to own that and really value certification as well. Eventually, certification is going to be a requirement for everybody—not just CHTM, but CBET, CRES, all of them. In reality, it’s creating a new standard for our field as a whole.”