Handcuffed to your job

LarkinPeople like to complain about their jobs. It’s an honored tradition. I’m sure Og the Wheel Technician was upset because he thought people in the fire management trade worked fewer hours and got bigger cuts of woolly mammoth.

But it’s not like Og couldn’t make a mid-life career change. He could take formal courses at the Bedrock Institute of Flint, or do a little self-study with two sticks and some tinder. It’s even easier for a BMET to move. There are more biomed jobs than people to fill them, and according to our Pulse Check (see page 16) experienced technicians and department managers typically improve their pay by moving to a new employer. Or, if you want to leave healthcare altogether, the broad skill set found among technicians and managers in our industry make it easy to learn heating systems, telecommunications, computers, marine electronics, or just about any technology that strikes your fancy.

You are not handcuffed to your job.

And that’s a scary concept, isn’t it? It’s one thing to complain about underappreciative employers when leaving doesn’t appear to be an option. It’s a lot harder when the door is wide open. In the current boom market for technicians, you have only yourself to blame if the company you work for is unethical in its treatment of customers, abusive to its workers, or simply boring. Don’t like where you are? Go someplace else.

Or you can try to change things.

Firing’s an empty threat when it comes from a crappy company, so if you’ve got any guts, stop whining and present a case to the management of your independent service organization that generous bonuses for site managers will be more than offset by the revenue from resigned contracts and retained customers. Argue with your hospital administrator that deliberate understaffing and mandatory overtime increases the risk that the institution will experience a sentinel event and get sued to the rafters. Explain to executives of the device manufacturer for which you work that companies buy health insurance to allow skilled workers to remain on the job longer and stay productive later in life, saving the company hundreds of thousands of dollars in recruiting and training costs. What’s the worst that can happen? That you leave and go someplace else where you make more money?

It’s your responsibility to keep your employer on the right track. That’s what you were hired to do. If they wanted a boat anchor, something to rest silently on the bottom of healthcare’s lake, management could have gone to Sears. You were hired to be an expert on the care and feeding of medicine’s technology, and that includes the care and feeding of medicine’s technology experts. You must be your own advocate. You’re the only person with the specialized knowledge to argue your case.

I’ll bet you a buck that in most situations, your employer will be willing to reform when presented with a valid business case for improving workplace conditions. If they don’t, why not go public? Nurses are gradually improving their circumstances throughout the country — throughout the world — because they make a lot of noise, and I mean a lot of noise.

You often hear technicians in this business say, “Treat the equipment you service as if it was going to be used to treat your mother.” Why stop at equipment? Would you want your mother to be a patient in a hospital staffed by underpaid, overworked, disgruntled BMETs? What if your son or daughter was going to be X-rayed on a system that was calibrated by an FSE who was preoccupied because he couldn’t find health insurance for his family?

Appropriate compensation and benefits are essential to the safety and efficiency of medical care. If we are not being treated fairly, it is our duty to escape.

Finally, let me, and the wonderfully talented crew that brings you 24×7 every month, wish you happy holidays. May the world be a safer, more peaceful place in 2002.

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