Ms. ‘Fix-It’ Makes Her Mark on the Profession

By Chaunie Brusie

Samantha Jacques, PhD, FACHE, is the director of clinical engineering with Penn State Health System in Hershey, Pa., where she has been employed for three years. As a leader in the HTM field, Jacques has provided significant contributions to the organizations she has worked for, as well as the entire industry.

Some highlights: At Penn State, Jacques transformed the reactive “fix-it” shop into a value-added support service that is highly regarded by the C-suite. She has created processes, trained staff, developed key performance indicators, standardized equipment and contracts, started an equipment planning function, and has saved her organization a significant amount of money. And she’s just getting started.

Making the Move to HTM

Jacques tells 24×7 Magazine that she transitioned into the HTM field following a successful career as an educator. “I taught in the field for seven years and worked with Dr. Larry Fennigkoh, one of the original founders in the HTM field, at the Milwaukee School of Engineering,” she says. “There was an opportunity at Texas Children’s Hospital that was outstanding, so I made the move.”

The former educator completed her undergraduate training at Milwaukee School of Engineering, and then continued onto graduate studies at Louisiana Tech University. Her PhD research focused on geriatrics—particularly elderly diabetics and those struggling with balance—a field that continues to hold her interest. Quality and safety training are other major interests of Jacques, and she’s augmented her knowledge about both by obtaining lean green belt certification.

Given this feat, it’s no surprise that Jacques has racked up many impressive accomplishments in the HTM field. Some of her career highlights include serving as a fellow for the American College of Healthcare Executives, leading Texas Children’s Hospital to win a 2015 AAMI Foundation and Institute for Technology in Health Care Clinical Solution Award for cross-disciplinary alarm management work, and earning the ACCE 2019 Professional Achievement in Technology Award/Professional Development Award.

Contributing to the Field

Jacques’ work in HTM is as expansive as the field itself. “Although the ever-changing landscape of healthcare is exciting, it’s also challenging,” she says. “You have to be willing to constantly learn and adapt.”

Needless to say, Jacques has done just that, with accomplishments that range from creating a centralized support of contracts and executing cost reductions of $650,000 annually for the system to implementing a standardized contract review process to ensure high quality and low cost at Penn State Health. Other noteworthy feats included leading “Delivering on Vision”—a non-labor, cost-saving team that saved $2.5 million in one year at Texas Children’s Hospital—and helping to create appendectomy bundles to reduce care variations and decrease hospital stays and complications among pediatric patients.

Jacques also gives back to industry associations. In addition to serving as a board member of the American College of Clinical Engineering (ACCE), Jacques works with AAMI to write standards and sit on their Healthcare Technology Leadership Committee. She is also active with the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives—where she advocates for medical device cybersecurity.

Even with such an impressive resume behind her, Jacques notes that she finds the aspect of growing and developing her staff to be the most rewarding part of her career. “Seeing them learn new skills and apply them to the ever-changing field is exciting,” she says. The team player and leader also adds that, in her opinion, a true hero of HTM is a servant leader willing to put his or her staff and hospital first—a trait she certainly exemplifies.

Balance as a Biomed

As a female in the traditionally male-dominated field of HTM, Jacques admits that when she entered the industry years ago, there were very few women at her level. Even so, she is quick to point out that she never felt—or experienced—any kind of “us versus them” mentality.

“I found that as long as I was competent and confident, I was treated the exact same way,” she says. And encouragingly, she adds that there has been an uptick of more females in the profession. “In recent years, I have seen great improvement in the number of female leaders within the field and I am excited about the future,” she says.

However, as the HTM field continues to expand in diversity, Jacques does hope to see better work-life balance for families. A mother to Christian, now 8, she recalls returning from maternity leave early to help her organization open a new building. Jacques was happy to play her part in ensuring that everything ran smoothly, but notes that the decision was “incredibly hard”—and that tug between work and her child remains a constant. “I still struggle to this day between the demands of my work and the demands of my family,” she says.

And while she doesn’t see work-life balance as a female-only issue, Jacques does hope to see the HTM industry, like any other, direct more efforts to better support that elusive balance of home and work life. “Any policies to help make work flexible would be a great addition,” she says.

Better work-life policies might also have the bonus of attracting more qualified candidates to the HTM field, which Jacques sees as a necessary step. “I think our industry is struggling to attract people in general, not just females,” she says.

She believes that strategies such as marketing more to high school STEM groups and highlighting the interaction of HTM with other healthcare professionals may make people more interested in joining. “Healthcare is a growing area and those with an interest in technology need to know this field is an option,” she says.

The Next Page

When she’s not breaking glass ceilings or adding achievements to her impressive resume, Jacques spends time with her young son and husband of 11 years, Brian. As Jacques continues her dedication to the HTM field and furthers her career growth, she is looking forward to the unfurling of the next page in her professional life.

The hardworking hero is currently working on her first book, to be titled, “Introduction to Clinical Engineering,” co-authored with Dr. Barbara Christie and scheduled to be published in 2020 by Elsevier.

So, will she be leaving the field forever to bask in new authorship? “I’m not sure if ‘author’ is a career,” says Jacques. “But it is an exciting next step!”

Chaunie Brusie is associate editor of 24×7 Magazine. Questions and comments can be directed to cbrusie@medqor.com

Jacques’ Career Highlights

Recent Presentations:

  • 2018 ACE Summit: Planning a Capital Equipment Maintenance Program
  • 2018 STEM Presentation for Milton Hershey School
  • 2018 Philips Connect 2 Care Conference: Standardization: People, Process, and Technology
  • 2019 ACE Summit: Formulating Equipment Replacement Strategies
  • 2019 HIMMS/CHIME Bootcamp: Effectively Cybersecurity and Organizational Culture
  • 2019 HIMMS/CHIME Bootcamp: Case Exercise – walk through the anatomy of a Cyber Breach

Journal Publications:

  • “Patient-centered design of alarm limits in complex pediatric populations,” Healthcare and Technology
  • “Reducing the Safety Hazards of Monitor Alert and Alarm Fatigue,” Perspectives of Safety

—C.B.