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It’s Not Your Father's HTM... Unless Your Mentor is Your Father

Updated: Aug 2, 2023

For Bryant K. Hawkins, Sr., and his son, Bryant K. Hawkins, Jr., healthcare technology management (HTM) isn’t just a career. It’s the family business.

Since graduating college in 1993, Hawkins, Sr. has worked in the HTM industry. And when Hawkins, Jr. graduated high school in 2020, he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps by beginning his own career in biomedical equipment technology. Now they both are employed by Crothall Healthcare—Hawkins, Sr. as an onsite director and Hawkins, Jr. as a biomedical equipment technician I (BMET I).

“When I was getting towards the end of high school, I couldn't really think of exactly what I wanted to go to school for,” says Hawkins, Jr. “And I didn't want to go to school and keep having to worry about switching majors, thinking ‘this doesn’t interest me’ and just basically burning money. My dad recommended to me the college that I attended.”

That school was called the College of Biomedical Equipment Technology, where Hawkins, Jr. earned an Associate of Science degree in Biomedical Technology. Likewise, his father earned the same degree from Delgado Community College almost three decades earlier.

And while Hawkins, Sr. chose to pursue the HTM field by randomly opening up his college syllabus and picking whatever his finger landed on, Hawkins, Jr. had the knowledge of a seasoned HTM professional to steer him on the path of biomedical equipment engineering.

“Because he saw me doing biomedical engineering his whole life, he was familiar with it,” Hawkins, Sr. says. “When he was in school, he recognized the terms and other things from hearing me over the years.”

That familiarity has served Hawkins, Jr. well in his first job in the HTM industry, where he repairs IV pumps, hospital beds, and vital signs monitors, and performs preventive maintenance. Yet it’s the unpredictability of the job that fuels Hawkins, Jr.’s love for the field.

“It's not really a mundane thing,” says Hawkins, Jr. “There's always something different that will happen. Some days may be slow. And other days I go around the hospital all day, going from room to room making fixes or performing PMs. It’s fulfilling knowing for a fact that the pump a patient is using is working fine since you put your hands on it and did all the proper procedures to make sure that it's working properly.”

HTM's Essential Evolution

Interestingly, Hawkins, Jr.’s entry-level responsibilities look different than his father’s did entering the HTM field in the 90s. Because of the rapid acceleration of healthcare technology driving job growth, Hawkins, Jr. has more options available to him than his father had almost three decades ago.

“When I finished school in 1993, there weren't really any biomed jobs available,” Hawkins, Sr. says. “So, I spent my first six months in the industry cleaning medical equipment and working in surgery as a laparoscopic video technician. That’s kind of related to biomedical engineering, but it wasn't in the field. Today, there are jobs all over the place, but back then it was very difficult to find a job in biomedical engineering.”

That’s in stark contrast to what the field is experiencing today. In a present where more and more equipment in a hospital has a digital interface, is interconnected, and/or is sharing patient information, the demand for BMETs is rapidly outpacing the pipeline of new talent for the field. AAMI’s 2021 HTM Demographic Survey revealed that U.S. HTM hospital departments and service providers are regularly 8.5% understaffed (open vacancies), on average. Explaining the vacancies, one-third of those organizations reported that it takes two to four months to fill a position while another 30% reported that it takes longer than four months to fill a position.

In this modern health technology ecosystem, Hawkins, Jr. has his pick of daily duties and future career growth. He could emulate his father’s career path, becoming a reliable jack-of-all-trades. Alternatively, he could zero in on a growing list of essential specializations, including the maintenance of imaging technology or management of telehealth, or focus on medical device cybersecurity. He could even transition to device design, with educators claiming that HTM experience gives innovative engineers a practical edge. Meanwhile, Hawkins, Sr.’s daily routine has already evolved beyond maintaining medical equipment.

“I don't really do many repairs anymore,” he says. “I'm mainly dealing with the budget, communicating with our client day-to-day, making sure they're happy with the biomed program. I’ve moved to the management side now more than the technical side.”

But he still loves it for many of the same reasons his son is enjoying the field.

“We save lives. If I have a long day of work, I just go visit our ICU department to be reminded of how important our work is to our patients’ lives. Those IV pumps and other equipment we take care of in the ICU are critically important to patient care and the community we serve.”

Hawkins, Sr. was able to pass on the HTM baton to his son, but he doesn’t want to stop there. He recently launched a new podcast project, called HTM: On The Line, to spread the word about expectations and opportunities for younger generations of HTM pioneers.

“Honestly, no one knows what HTM means,” he says. “I try to inform people about it because it's such an awesome field. I’ll tell anyone about it. If you know someone struggling with what they want to do in school, tell them to call me. I’ve got the perfect sales pitch.”

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