SAN ANTONIO (NNS) -- Navy Corpsmen instructors and students joined their Army and Air Force counterparts at the Medical Education and Training Campus (METC) and celebrated Healthcare Technology Management (HTM) Week May 21-27 at Joint Base San Antonio - Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
HTM Week is held annually by the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) to increase awareness of biomedical equipment technicians (BMETs) and other related technology experts in the medical community and the importance of their work.
"We like to inform our students and staff members, as well as other medical professionals, what we do behind the scenes," said Air Force Master Sgt. Christine Collins, a BMET instructor. "A lot of doctors and nurses and patients who get their vitals read, they don't understand how the machines work, or what to do if they're broken. So HTM is about highlighting what we do behind the scenes to keep the hospital running. And it can be everything from the vital signs monitor and thermometers all the way to MRI, CT and x-ray machines."
The weeklong celebration included daily lunches and information sessions where different speakers discussed various professional development topics related to HTM. Although the weeklong celebration is a national event, instructors feel METC offers a unique opportunity.
"I think this HTM week is special here at the schoolhouse because it's tri-service," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Wesley Ladlee, another instructor at METC. "When you go out and about, the Air Force will have their own at their duty stations, the Army will have their own. This one is where we can all come together as a team and put something together for all services to enjoy."
HTM Week also placed Navy Hospital Corpsmen in alignment with one of Vice Adm. Forrest Faison's three priorities - partnerships. Faison, the Navy Surgeon General, emphasizes the importance of Navy Medicine partnerships with their military and civilian counterparts in part as a way to learn and improve.
The tri-service BMET program is a fast-paced, highly-technical course lasting 41 weeks for Army and Air Force, and 54 weeks for Navy. Students earn over 70 credit hours toward an associate's degree and an extremely viable skill set that will set them up for success both in and out of the military.
"There's always going to be medical equipment, so there's always going to be a need for us," said Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Gerald Lee, BMET Navy service lead instructor. "If you graduate from this school, you're considered cream of the crop when you go into the civilian side. In the civilian sector, they really didn't have anything equivalent to this school until recently. It was just regular electricians going into the hospitals working as BMETs."
The intense BMET course includes instruction in basic electronics, theory, hands-on medical equipment troubleshooting, researching equipment symptoms and malfunctions, and correcting deficiencies. At the same time students are learning the technical aspect they also go through more in-depth medical courses, including anatomy and physiology.
Army Chief Warrant Officer 5 Charles Martin, BMET Program Director, remarked on the difficulty of the course and the unique aspect of foreign military officers coming through their program.
"The last two foreign military officers had engineering degrees, and it was a culture shock for them," Martin said. "They have that high-level degree, and they were majors (in the military). They were humbled to know that individuals who are coming straight from high school are really competing with them, and the knowledge that our instructors have here is really above par. So they were very appreciative to receive the instruction that we provide to them, but also humbled to see this is really an advanced course that we call basic."
The three services began training BMET in a joint program in 1999 at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, and moved the training to METC at JBSA - Fort Sam Houston in 2010. They run approximately 22 classes per fiscal year with a maximum of 20 students per class.
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