How to Climb the BMET Ladder | Chris Nowak, Senior Director Information Services, UHS

Dec 28, 2021


Chyrill Sandrini, Chris Nowack


Chyrill Sandrini  00:00

Hi, welcome to htm Insider. I’m Chyrill, your host from MultiMedical systems. And today I’m so happy to have my friend Chris Nowak of UHS. And Chris, why don’t you introduce yourself to our viewers and our listeners?


Chris Nowack  00:14

Sure, thanks Chyrill. I’m Chris Nowak, like, I’m the Senior Director for healthcare technology manager with Universal Health Services. We own and operate hospitals across the country. And we love doing providing value for employer.


Chyrill Sandrini  00:31

Yeah, so what we’re gonna talk with Chris today is about how you the biomed can add value to your employer, right? So we’re talking about how can you be the best employee that you can be, and you can move up the ranks there in your company? So Chris has some great ideas. So let’s talk about we first become a Biomed, Chris, how do you like make yourself shine? Like, how do you stand out?


Chris Nowack  00:56

Yeah, that’s a great question. And, you know, there’s some personal responsibility associated with accomplishing that goal, right? So you got to be able to invest in yourself. So when you’re first starting out in the career field, obviously, you’re you might be freshly minted, you might have any kind of skill set that you’ve developed post secondary education, and now you’re ready to deploy those skills for this, this new career that you’re about to embark on. So I think some of my biggest things to coach you in doing in when you enter this career field, is communicate, find somebody that’s going to invest time and you find it, even at the employer, let’s say you land that big job, find those folks in the department, that you can buddy up to that, you know, I always had a mentor, or like a mentor. You know, I had a mentor, I had a gentleman that took me under his wing. And well, that person just invested so much time in me to try and make sure that I had the best experience, because it was going to pay dividends, you know, maybe a little bit self serving, right? So they know that if they invest the time in me, he me under his wing, showed me the ropes that it’s going to make life better for you, he and the rest of the team, it’s going to make life better for the patients that we serve. So find those individuals, there are those individuals out there that want to invest their time into you to make you who you want to be. And I say who you want to be, because it’s important that you invest in yourself. So we were just downstairs at a conference. And we talked a little bit about this in the last presentation that I was in. And one of the things that has to happen is when you go to your employer, obviously you’re going to get some orientation, you’re going to become familiar with their processes. But it really isn’t coming upon you to invest in yourself so that at the end of the day, you go home, you might have some dinner, take a little bit of time, maybe it’s an hour a day, maybe it’s a half hour in the evening, after you’ve decompressed and invest a little bit. There’s so much opportunity for you to magazine publications online publications, HTM Insider, or htm insider! The amount of video that makes it so much easier on you to invest in yourself, learn from those who have made the mistakes to you don’t have to repeat them. Maybe you’ll find a nugget in that as well that you didn’t even think about like something that really piques your interest that you want to get involved with. Maybe it’s a piece of cardiology equipment or a piece of surgery equipment. And you can invest your time in that little bit of time in the evening, maybe on the weekend.


Chyrill Sandrini  04:01

Yeah. And, you know, I think another important skill that biomeds need to think about is we know that you are great at turning wrenches, so to speak, right? And IT is being you know, bigger and bigger in the biomed industry. But what about soft-skills?


Chris Nowack  04:19

Yeah, yeah. That was part of the meeting. So, you know, that customer service guy, it’s almost like


Chyrill Sandrini  04:27

Who is your customer? That’s a relationship who’s your customer if you’re working as a biomed in the hospital?


Chris Nowack  04:34

That’s a great question. So I’m going to tell you, the ultimate customers, the patient, it’s the person is coming to the front door and paying our paycheck, right? That person is the ultimate client. Now, there’s so much that goes into that client though, right? There’s so much that influences that clients experience while they’re at your facility. So what types of things influence that that clients experience that patient experience medical equipment, medical equipment. So if we’re not doing our job, the nurse, the Rad Tech, the lab tech can’t do their job, the respiratory therapist, they can’t do their job that might set them off, maybe in a little bit of a bad mood, that might transfer over to the patient experience. That’s what we never want to have happen. And we influence that we as htm professionals, really influence that. And we have control over that. We what happens when the lights go out? Meaning when a piece of equipment breaks, it’s that skills that sometimes very difficult to teach, you know,


Chyrill Sandrini  05:47

it’s very difficult to teach. And I like to say that, you know, as a biomed, often you walk into a room and you could have an upset physician, let’s say that, that something’s not working right, in the O.R., it’s a lot of panic is going on. And somebody just unplugged the unit from the wall. And you go and you plug it back in and you walk out of the room, right? But you should address those people. Right? So and let it be known right? Wear that cape, right? Be proud you


Chris Nowack  06:19

bet. That’s the that is such a great scenario that you just painted. So hey, you know what you can be our Einstein you can be Mr. Fixit, you can be that person or miss fix it you can be that person that is a jack of all trades. However, the communication part of the process, you might be able to fix that equipment, you bring it back. You know, I just gave an example where you go up to the unit, you place it on the desk where the unit clerk may sit annually, and nobody knows if that piece of equipment is ready to go. So that creates some confusion up on the floor. Communicate. It’s not repaired until you fix the customer. You always have to fix a customer, the or scenario that you painted earlier, will tell you you know as a young biomed I’m in the O.R. with Dr. Stanley Brockman, a cardiac surgeon and I’m underneath that drapes of the surgical table working on it because he had some EKG issues. And Stanley’s up there telling me that I’m killing his patient. The stress, but he was, it was not it was a jovial kind of you know, it was a ribbing. And I think I want to go a little bit more beyond. So yeah, it was a little bit of a ribbing Dr. Brockman was having with me, but it was that relationship that I had with Dr. Brockman. So I think back to that soft skill set, when you’re a biomed, or htm professional in your facility, or even at a company, if you’re a third party, you have to establish relationships with your customers. Now that’s the other customers, right? Then the lab techs, the rag techs and nurses, the doctors, again, a law that affects the patient in the end. But you have to have those relationships. You know, Dr. Brockman and I knew each other. I’ve helped him I’ve worked on his stuff. He knew my competency. He knew what I could do. He trusted, he trusted me. And so that relationship helps you in those very difficult situations where things are going bad. And that relationship is so strong, that they believe in what you’re doing. They’re going to be patient, they’re going to let you do what you need to do to make that device work


Chyrill Sandrini  08:34

again. Yeah. 100%. Now, let’s talk about how do you promote in this industry? When do you go from a BMET 1 to BMET 2? And how do you become a supervisor and what’s needed to move up the ranks in HTM Industry?


Chris Nowack  08:51

Sure, that’s a that’s another great question he brought up and, and it varies with all different with the different employers that are out there. So you know, you have third party and fourth and OEM employers you have in house employers like myself. And when I built my program, one of the things that I wanted to do was build a program that rewarded all kinds of skill sets. You know, in a lot of the older traditional programs, you have biomed techs, and you have imaging engineers, and what I noticed in my career, I noticed that created and us in them kind of environment, it created little dissension among the ranks and that team building was sometimes difficult, where when I started my program, I wanted to reward all the skill sets because I thought and I still think today that the imaging engineer brings a tremendous value to the employer drinks brings tremendous skill set for the employer, but you know what so does you mentioned cybersecurity in this day and age of connectivity. Most of we have tremendous amount of devices connected to network, we have nearly 50% of our medical devices in our inventory that are connected to the patient monitoring system. So cybersecurity is and is extremely important network understanding, extremely important. So I want to reward that, just like our reward by imaging engineer, I want to reward the technician that can work on lab equipment, just like a reward by imaging engineer, right. So that is important skills. And so when I built my program, I made sure the process to go from one position to the other was clearly defined. And that skill set the competency that you’ve demonstrated, is going to help you and really give you a good roadmap, hey, what I need to do, you know, that little bit of going home at night, taking a half hour an hour, that’s how you’re going to get to the next step. In my program, I do value certification. And there is some steps in there that require certification. And I would encourage folks to go out and seek out what’s involved with ACI certification, that’s the AAMI Credentials Institute certification, make yourself better makes you just a better person makes you a better technician, your value to your employer.


Chyrill Sandrini  11:16

Right. And so what value let’s talk about with value also relates to pay. Yeah, right. Yeah.


Chris Nowack  11:23

Yeah, you bet. So we talked about the imaging and the cybersecurity and clinical laboratory, you know, those devices are very expensive to operate to cost of ownership, service contracts, if I have to buy a service contract from the OEM. It’s very expensive, you know, a CT scanner can be $150,000. If I can build the skill set of somebody, or somebody can invest in themselves, and develop that skill set within themselves, You’re darn right that that yeah, that value to the organization, your your financial value. Now, instead of buying $150,000 contract, you know, with somebody training, I still have to buy parts, it still cost me for that person’s time. But you know what that cost may now be $60,000 or $80,000. And now I’m saving my employer $70,000. So that, that value that 70, I can take $10,000 of that and pour it into my employee, right?


Chyrill Sandrini  12:32

Now, we are looking for that mentor or you’re in you know, your workplace? Should you have a good relationship with your supervisor? What’s like interpersonal relationships in the biomed shop mean to your career?


Chris Nowack  12:53

Really firing some great questions. Boy, this is great for our audience out there that is listening to our podcast today. So relationships are important regardless, right, and you know, the relationship with your, you’re not going to love every manager that you have, or every director that you have, or even the nurses and doctors and rad texting. Like, you’re not going to always love everybody that you work with. But you know, there’s a maturity of that relationship that you both respect, you develop that mutual respect for one another. And that mutual respect really helps you work together for the good of the outcome for the patient. And just like with your manager, you may not have to love that manager director, but you have to have a respect for that relationship, that respect for what that manager has to do, right? Because there’s a lot of other things that a manager or director is doing there have folks from up on high squawking in their ear, and they have financial performance and regulatory performance and all of these different pressures that they have, sometimes they don’t always show you the love, right? That you’re really mean. But the relationship as long as you develop a strong respectful relationship, that all works itself out, and it really helps climb that ladder that to where you want to go. Right. And not everybody wants to be a director, right? I can remember early on is that early director in my career, I had a technician Steve that loved radiology was one of my techs that had a skill set radiology. But Steve, when he was there from eight to 4:30 He gave me 1,010% But what if you want to be gone at 4:30 Okay, and go home and go bowling and he loved to do things. You have to respect that Right? Right. It’s not for everyone. Right? Exactly. And one of my, my mentors, my director that gave me my first shot as a director after that person left the organization. He said to me words of wisdom, and I give these words of wisdom to


Chyrill Sandrini  15:16

you. That’s great, because that’s one of the things we close with every time is word of wisdom. So we’re going to use this


Chris Nowack  15:22

well, the words of wisdom, he said, Just remember, because he said, you know, the technology, but you’ve got that all figured out. You’re, you’re one of those technical wizards, you can fix anything. But you know, always remember, not everybody said, Chris Nowak with that stuck with me. And I knew I knew exactly what you meant. Yes, that was a special gift. Yeah, it was, yeah. A guy still in my life today.


Chyrill Sandrini  15:48

That’s awesome. That’s a great story. So one of the things that being a third party agency, we work with a lot of technicians, we have a lot of technicians on our team working coast to coast. It’s a struggle sometimes to find certificates, Chris, right. When you go to a class, you get your CEUs, you get that shiny certificate, what would you suggest a new biomed start doing from day one.


Chris Nowack  16:16

So I think, you know, you bring up a good point about certificates and continuing education. Regardless if you’re certified or not, this is going to help you. Always in your career. They’re there, they’re the credentials, that you’re going to present to your employer, whether it’s you’re going to stay at your current employer, or you continue to grow, it’s that next step, maybe there isn’t a manager position available at the facility, and you’re ready to make that next step. Those credentials, those certificates, they’re the things that are going to provide you with a value yourself value. So continue to educate us, things like this podcast, HTM insider, use so many other resources, there are so many good people that are investing in this career field for you. Take advantage of that.


Chyrill Sandrini  17:07

And I just strongly encourage, you know, just building on that is keeping electronic file with all your certificates. But you’re still going to get that hardcopy certificate or one that you can print. So my suggestion is to you is get that old school photo book, right? Start keeping them in there and never stop, make it a habit start from day one. Because when an employer like Chris, I like MultiMedical systems or any other htm organizations out there, they’re going to say, hey, what have you been trained on?


Chris Nowack  17:40

What do you what can you vet, what can you validate for,


Chyrill Sandrini  17:45

and that often equates in your pay? Yeah, and you might start, it might be the difference of, you know, 2, 3, 4 or $5 an hour, if you can back up what you’re actually certified on, and what education you’re bringing as a value to companies,


Chris Nowack  17:59

I’m going to tell you when I see resumes, and it’s great, you know, some folks put all of these capabilities, all of these skill sets that they have, when I see that, and I don’t see anything to validate that as part of the resume, or you don’t even have to make it part of the resume. But during the interview process, maybe you bring something with you to validate that because you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to ask questions that are associated with those skill sets that you said you had. And I’ll know pretty quickly whether or not that was wonderful scripting that you wrote on the resume whether that actually happened on the resume.


Chyrill Sandrini  18:39

Yeah. And I agr ee with that. And sometimes on the job training, is great experience, document that and when it occurred, yeah, because if you’ve got on the job training, and you’re certified, I mean, to work on this piece of equipment, make sure you document that said, just saying it out loud. And why do


Chris Nowack  19:00

your employers doing it? Yeah. So MMS is employer documents when you provide education, whether it’s OJT. In our organization, we have a competency document. So it talks about all the different skill sets that and it’s specifically for that individual, we build that competency assessment document for every individual and that stays in your file, all the while that you’re employed with our organization.


Chyrill Sandrini  19:29

That’s great, Chris. Any other things you could think that might, you know? Yeah,


Chris Nowack  19:35

so I am yeah, I do. I do have a few more things. Don’t listen to because there’s always going to be folks that want to cut your dream. And, oh, if you’re working on beds, you know, they poopoo the bed technology. You know what? That technology is extremely important to this If you’re patient to the patient’s whole experience, guess what they do with it in almost all of our beds today have scales that integrated into the bed. They medicate that patient based upon the weight of the patient. If you over medicate that pitcher, you could kill somebody, you know. So the skill set, you know, our teams now work on beds in my organization. It’s so important to the safety of the patient. It’s not something that should be poo pooed, if you will. It is a skill set that’s recognized in our organization. We have imaging engineer, imaging engineers. We don’t call them imaging engineers, but they have those imaging skill sets. Guess what I’ve walked in, watch them working on infusion pumps, watching them working a bit, because you know what? There’s not a CT broken 24 hours a day or eight hours a day, right? It doesn’t happen every day. So that skill set of imaging is not in use eight hours a day. So it’s important that you broaden your horizons, don’t just pigeonhole yourself into a specific skill set, the broaden skill set, that employee provides much more value to an employer than somebody that’s focused on one product.


Chyrill Sandrini  21:23

Very good. Yeah, that’s a great point, Chris. Anything else you can think of? Today that might really just… cybersecurity. Never ending any topic? Yeah,


Chris Nowack  21:34

one thing we did in our organization, I was able to convince my C suite leadership, one of the things that we’re always there was always keeping me up at night is all these connected devices to the network, your IT teams, they know there’s devices connected to the network, but they don’t have the visibility, they don’t understand the complexities of 510 K, validation, and that you can’t just upgrade an operating system like they do your laptop, or your PC on your desk, they can’t, they can’t do that to a medical device that has to be validated through the OEM, and then you can make the necessary patches. So getting involved in cybersecurity, we bought a tool to allow us to have visibility, everything on our network, every medical device connected to the network, and also also finds all the non medical devices. But that’s our IT department. They’re focused on that we’re focused on the medical devices, and I need skill set, right? We we want to develop those skill sets on our teams to understand the network connectivity.


Chyrill Sandrini  22:40

Yeah. 100%. And, you know, we’re really short right now and biomech staffing across the country. You know, is there anything that you can think of somebody looking at this career field? Should they just attend any school? Should they just do it online? They do it in person? What do you recommend?


Chris Nowack  23:05

So there’s so many things available, you talk about online, it depends on the individual and how they learn. Unfortunately, I’m a see it, touch it, feel it kind of person. So I learned best by being in front of something. Lots of people that can do remote learning, in this day and age, they, you know, gradually they have been adapted to that. So there’s lots of schools that you know, there’s a school out of San Antonio, those folks, and it’s nationwide school that has great education programs, a lot of there’s colleges out there that have a community colleges that have online programs. There’s so much available to the students, you really need to pick what fits your way that you like to learn. And what’s most effective.


Chyrill Sandrini  23:53

Yeah, you know, we had Monty on he’s Yeah, Monty on, and they’re starting a new imaging.


Chris Nowack  24:01



Chyrill Sandrini  24:02

Yep. How amazing is that? That’s like continuing making yourself more valuable to your employee. I would jump at that opportunity. If I was in your shoes out there. I would jump at that opportunity. I’d be the first one signed up.


Chris Nowack  24:16

Sure. I’ve even had candidates. They graduate from a program, maybe electronics program or biomedical program. And they’ve invested I talk about investing in yourself. I’ve talked about it several times today. They’ve gone to RSTI. I I know for them to say names, but they’ve gone to RSTI and they’ve taken courses paid for it themselves, and then come to the employer. Hey, look what I have.


Chyrill Sandrini  24:42

Yeah. 100% Well, it’s been great chatting with you today. Like always, yeah, always good times when we get together. I know Chris is always available for people that want more information. We’ll add that


Chris Nowack  24:56

  1. I’ve been so blessed. I love my career. I love giving back, I love teaching, and I do I take calls all the time, and I, you know, whatever I can do for somebody to jump into this career to make themselves better in this career. I love it.


Chyrill Sandrini  25:14

Do you hear that elbow? Chris, no app is available for you call him anytime. So let’s go over what is your word of wisdom? Again, let’s leave our listeners with this because you and I have joked about it. I have to tell you is one time I had a call with Chris. And I said, Well, yeah, you could do that. But you don’t have a Chyrill. Yeah. And he said, Let me tell you the story. So I’m so happy to share that with


Chris Nowack  25:39

you. So not everybody’s a Chris Nowak. And, you know, I was on the other side of the fence. And I was involved with business development and selling biomedical programs. And I sold a very large program into a health system in the Boston, Massachusetts area. And I had a debriefing with the Vice President of supply chain. And I asked her I said, Linda, what, why me? Why did you choose me and my company? And basically like, Chris, you were in that room. And those folks, you said, when you sold this program, you got a piece of me you got a piece of Chris Nowak, that’s what did it for all my people.


Chyrill Sandrini  26:23

There you go. So, so own it. Get out there. Yeah, own it. Yes. Get out there. Yeah, reach out to myself. Reach out to Chris because we’re all about helping you guys improve in your careers and making you more valuable to your employers. So thanks again, Chris, for joining us. This


Chris Nowack  26:39

is wonderful. Appreciate it.


Chyrill Sandrini  26:40

Thank you to our listeners and our viewers you know, follow us on follow the hashtag. You can find us on YouTube, Spotify, anywhere you can search for a podcast we’re available. So thanks for joining us today.