The Forum DACH, the cooperation platform of hospital technicians in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands has taken on the task of forming a joint work group for the topic of the job profile of technical managers in the healthcare sector. A document is being created which can be used to present the difficulty regarding the job description and can be presented to the authorities and committees in charge. In succession, efforts towards a legal foundation for the profession will be expanded.

Current Situation

The profession of hospital technician, despite its firm anchoring in the professional groups of the healthcare sector, does not have universally accepted job description. An accepted job description however is a prerequisite to give employers and institutions security in setting up and structuring technical units in healthcare facilities through educational and competence systems. Not only with regard to proper performance requirements and required expertise, but also appropriate remuneration systems.

The dependency of all operational processes on hospital technology is increasing in large strides. At the same time, technical understanding and knowledge are decreasing among users, operators, and management. Without a technical team that is well trained and involved in the decision-making process, operational safety, and the economy, technical management cannot be guaranteed.

Looking at the official Austrian  information regarding job profiles in the healthcare sector, hospital technician does not show up.

What has kept the people in charge on all levels from drafting and implementing a tangible job profile? It’s likely there were several reasons.

While establishing and developing hospital technology over the last few decades, it was not possible, and maybe also not desired, to build up homogeneous structures. Many institutions have a different set up and organisation of technical units. On top of that, the last few years saw a lot of organisational restructuring, experimenting, and shifts in responsibility without any basis for specific decisions.Think, for example, of the peculiar allocation of medical technology into IT, or into facility management but without granting the technical unit the main leadership.

The different sizes of hospitals further complicated the creation of a universal structure because of differences in application depth, intensity, and complexity of technology.

The segmentation of technology into departments for construction and operation, building services and medical technology, and the conscious breaking up of technology in order to prevent too much influence, also added to the problem. Occasionally, the connection of individual units was carried out by economists which were lacking the experience and knowledge about technology but created an impression of having everything under control.

There was a lack of suitable documentation to enforce the request for a seperate professional field for technicians with several authorities and administrations. There was and is a lack of a lobby.

These are surely only some of the reasons that prevented the enforcement of an accepted job description. In addition, hospital management so far had no special desire to support the technicians. The reasons are manifold.

Basis of a universal job description

Thanks to the documents already collected by the technical associations (FKT, IHS, ÖVKT), available job specifications from hospitals, as well as additional provided working bases, it is possible to draft a model and build up the job profile.

The main components of the job description are the areas of responsibility including authority and the inherent competencies through education, training, and work experience.

The job profile sets the current conception of grouped and specific requirements and tasks based on experience, evolution, and innovation. The resulting document will be officially recognized during the coordination of interests and consensus building with all concerned parties. Generally only the most significant competencies and tasks as well as their objectives are included. They are supposed to represent the profession’s main features, such as the key duties and essential competencies.

Within the German speaking countries there are very few differences in duties when comparing similar hospital categories. The apprenticeships are also comparable to some extent. Institutional training is not to be found, except for the Master’s Training for Management of Technology in the healthcare sector at the Danube University Krems, in cooperation with the ÖVKT.

Hospital technology is hard to master in a single apprenticeship due to the spread of demands and its importance for the functioning and operating of health care facilities. Only occasionally regular studies with a degree in hospital technology are offered in German speaking countries. Supplementary training for skilled trades have only been available recently.

Which preconditions are we currently dealing with:

In the perception of third parties there is no clear picture of the actual activity and function associated with the job of a hospital technician. There is no good concept of the associated job profile.

The profession is one of the more complex occupations, yet it is not represented to the outside with its definition of tasks, and lacks a universal job title.

The professional activity cannot be reduced to a job in the usual sense as it is a cluster of different jobs and partial aspects of other jobs.

What’s missing is a common understanding in the general public about which activities are related to hospital technology. In addition to that there is also the absence of a regulated qualification and of a institutionally predefined job description, e.g. by the hospital technology associations.

With regards to the development of a new job profile – the institutional definition by e.g. the associations or the legislature, the starting points have to be accepted and considered during the development and enforcement of the job description.

Summary and Outlook

For now, the work group will create a job profile on the highest  level of technical management. This means that after the completion, all components can be broken down to the divisional level and then to the case handler and maintenance group levels. For this extensive work, an assignment of responsibilities within the associations is required.

With the help of the hospital technology associations represented in the IFHE-Europe (International Federation of Hospital Engineering – Europe) an EU project will be submitted to the committees of the European Union as the next step of implementing of our work.

Attachment – Job Description Health Care Technician.pdf (German)