In 1972, AAMI wanted to raise the bar within the biomed profession and launched a certification program for individuals to show their expertise. Some of the first BMETs sat for the Certified Biomedical Equipment Technician CBET certification exam. Those who passed were part of a charter group that would redefine HTM in a significant way. In the intervening years, biomed professionals everywhere have taken time to study for the exam, and 44 years later, approximately 4,000 individuals hold the CBET certification.
Today, certification exams may be taken through AAMI’s Credentials Institute (ACI). The institute points out that certification demonstrates to potential employers a commitment to the healthcare technology field. ACI offers a number of resources for those preparing for a certification exam. The first is a handbook that provides an overview of each certification, a calendar providing testing windows, application deadlines and late registration deadlines for exams, eligibility requirements, scoring and results and other useful information.
According to the AAMI website, the CBET certification means “that individuals have demonstrated excellence in theoretical as well as practical knowledge of the principles of biomedical equipment technology.”
Other certifications include the Certified Laboratory Equipment Specialist (CLES) and Certified Radiology Equipment Specialist (CRES).
The CBET, CLES and CRES certifications were recently accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), further enhancing the credibility of each as well as ACI’s commitment to quality.
To take the CBET, CRES and CLES exams an applicant must have both an associate degree in a biomedical equipment technology program and two years of full-time experience as a BMET. Alternative qualifications include having completed a biomedical equipment technology program in the military, along with two years of full-time BMET experience or an associate degree in electronics technology, along with three years experience as a full-time BMET. Without a degree, four years of full-time BMET experience will qualify an individual to take the exam.
For applicants sitting for the CLES certification exam, there are two additional routes to qualification; an associate degree in medical laboratory technology and three years of full-time BMET experience or a bachelor’s degree in medical laboratory technology and two years of full-time BMET experience.
There have been recent changes to the certification maintenance requirements. Those changes can be found in the recertification/certification renewal requirements that will bring the ACI certifications in line with other professional standards.
“The AAMI Credentials Institute is changing from a points-based system for certification renewals to one based on continuing education units, or CEUs, in an effort to be more consistent with other certifying bodies and to make maintaining certification less complicated and time consuming,” says Sherrie Schulte, CAE, senior director of certification and annual conference at AAMI.
“The point system was confusing to many people. It was not easy to figure out how many points an activity was worth, and many of the items were not easy to verify,” said ACI Chair Larry Hertzler, vice president of technical operations at Aramark in Charlotte, North Carolina. “With the new system, an hour of training equals one CEU in most cases. The process should be much easier for certified professionals to track, and it should reduce the amount of time it takes to remain certified.”
Schulte says that under the new system, certified professionals must complete 30 CEUs directly related to the healthcare technology management (HTM) field every three years to maintain their certification.
CEUs can be accumulated through a wide variety of professional activities, including attending educational meetings, classes, and seminars; participating in healthcare committees, work groups, or HTM societies; presenting, teaching, or developing educational content; publishing articles; and working in the HTM field.
Individuals can find the complete recertification policy in the ACI Candidate Handbook which is available on the AAMI website.
As an ACI certification holder, certificants not only add to their existing knowledge, but enforce the credibility of their certification through continual learning. This newfound knowledge has practical application to their work lives and in 2017 will be submitted using modern technology.
“Documentation for these activities, such as certificates, transcripts, or letters from class sponsors, eventually will be submitted through a new electronic reporting system,” Schulte explains.
“Certification is only as valuable as the standard it represents. Recertification programs are important because they require those with credentials to present evidence that they are maintaining the established standard,” Schulte says.
Hertzler added, “The ACI Board wants to ensure that ACI-certified professionals are the best in the field. Having a reliable, meaningful, and credible system allows this to happen.”
Changes in the New Year
Change is afoot and it is incumbent on certification holders to know what is new. Schulte points out that four other changes are worth knowing about as well:
All of these changes go back to establishing, maintaining and publicizing one clear fact about HTM certifications; they remind everybody that they represent a profession.
“As for the new continuing ed requirements, I like the fact that it puts a little more focus on having certification holders being more active on professional growth,” says Richard Marshall, studying for the Certified Healthcare Technology Manager CHTM exam. “The changes that I see in the journal all seem geared to helping our community grow professionally and become more recognizable to the facilities that we work for.”
Those professional credentials are what led to the inclusion of two newer certifications that are targeted towards managers and quality system managers.
There is the Certified Quality System Manager (CQSM) certification and the CHTM certification.
“This HTM certification (CHTM) covers two major areas in healthcare technology management: the management of healthcare technology operations; and, the management of personnel,” according to the AAMI website.
The CQSM certification currently requires that an applicant have 10 years of experience managing quality system programs with five years of management work experience. They must also hold a bachelor’s degree in the field of engineering, or science, plus five years as a quality systems manager, according to AAMI.
The CHTM exam requires that the applicant have current certification as a clinical engineer, a biomedical equipment technician, a radiology equipment specialist or a laboratory equipment specialist with at least three years of work experience as a supervisor or manager in the past five years. Those who don’t have manager or supervisor in their title would have to confirm that they perform these duties. There are several eligibility paths that would allow an individual to qualify to sit for the exam.
As an alternative to the eligibility route just mentioned, the applicant could instead have successfully completed the Department of Defense biomedical equipment maintenance technician training program with at least three years of military or civilian work experience as an HTM supervisor or manager in the past five years. As with the previous route, if the applicant does not have the title of supervisor or manager, they should be able to confirm that they perform these duties.
There are a number of ways to study for the certification exams. Self-study is always an option. There are established study methods, like the study group offered through the Colorado Association of Biomedical Equipment Technicians (CABMET), that have a history of helping people prepare for the test.
The CABMET offering (http://www.cabmet.org/study-group/) is well known and has a loyal following. It offers preparation courses for the CBET, CLES and CRES. Dave Scott, CBET, is the organizer of the study group and has guided many an exam taker to a favorable outcome. The study group offers group learning or a self-paced approach. Both offer website access with downloadable class material available.
“They are small groups, but we have a self-study option which includes videos,” Scott says, referring to the two newer certifications. “We have talked about offering the CHTM course as a self-study module. That’s how we do our CLES portion too. There just aren’t that many people doing the CLES to offer an online course for it. We don’t have any plans for a CQSM course.”
“We do a live presentation study group once per year for the spring test in May. That has live call in and videos. Also, all study materials. Then, for the other tests offered throughout the year, we have the self-study option. Our next group for 2017 will be starting in March,” Scott says.
Scott also provides a one-day CBET interactive review session at every MD Expo. He will be providing this course at the upcoming event in April in Irvine, California. He also writes a column for TechNation that appears every other month. At both the Expo, and in his column, he will cover the changes outlined by AAMI.
There is also HTM Certifications, through John Noblitt, an experienced educator who has designed a program to aid the certification exam taker in preparing to sit for the CBET exam. More information is available at http://htmcertifications.com/.
“Last year (2016), there were four testing periods. I see that in 2017, they have gone back to two testing periods per year – May and November tests,” Scott says. “The same recommendations I have made in the past still apply; start early; at least eight weeks out. Divide the test into sections. Study each section at a time. Leave some time at the end to review all sections of the test,” he says.
Scott says that there are now 165 questions on the CBET exam.
“You have to get 116 correct to pass. There used to 150 questions and needed 105 to pass. The addition of the Healthcare Information Technology added more total questions to the test,” he says.
AAMI also offers a study guide, titled the “BMET Study Guide: Preparing for Certification & Sharpening Your Skills,” which is available on CD. It includes more than 800 interactive questions and answers and allows the user to create a practice test using those questions.
In some cases, those who have sat for the exam and not passed on the first try, have a clearer insight into what to expect on the test and where their study may have fallen short.
“The first time I took the test earlier this year, I missed a passing score by one. Although I did not pass, it gave me an idea of what areas I needed to focus on,” Marshall says. “One resource that has been helpful in my studying has been the AAMI ‘A Practicum for HTM.’ The publication covers many of the topics that were on the test. Other resources and topics to know would be some of the labor laws, American Disabilities Act and some general HR knowledge.”
As the HTM field shrinks due to the retirement of baby boomers, and fewer new biomeds enter the field, certification offers a way to distinguish oneself to potential employers, as well as current ones. It also adds a designation or credential after the holder’s name that speaks to that person’s professional standards and knowledge.
The new recertification system took effect Jan. 1, 2017. For more information, visit www.aami.org/aci_handbook.
This article was originally published on TechNation.