Magazine article Techniques

Critical Careers

Magazine article Techniques

Critical Careers

Article excerpt

A new book looks at career opportunities in the field of medical equipment service.

When most people walk through a hospital, the beeps, alarms and other noises they hear just intensify the already uncomfortable feeling that they have from just being there. And seeing loved ones connected to electronic machines of every sort can cause even the bravest soul to break out in a cold sweat (myself included).

Obviously, the objective is to find the quickest way out, hopefully by their loved one recovering as soon as possible, so neither they nor the loved one has to come back. So it is seldom, if ever, that one wonders, "Just who fixes these lifesaving machines? What happens when the X-ray machine doesn't work? Who makes sure that ventilator is giving the patient the proper breathing rate and depth, and with the right amount of oxygen? Is the heart rate displayed on that monitor accurate?"

Because so few people know the answers to these questions, the professionals in the medical equipment service industry remain a relatively unknown, but critical, link in health care. And, due to the increased attention given to "information systems" or computer networking careers by the media, counselors and even educators, the demand for qualified personnel in this field is rapidly overpowering a dwindling supply.

Estimates from the Occupational Outlook Handbook place the number of "medical equipment repairers" at around 11,000 nationwide. However, very few of the professionals in the medical equipment service industry use the title of "medical equipment repairers." A more realistic estimate might be about 40,000 (and growing rapidly!). In fact, the job entails much, much more than just repairs.

The medical equipment service industry is a challenging industry, but one that offers a very real sense of job satisfaction. And although there are many types of careers in this field, the two most widely known are biomedical equipment technicians and field service representatives for medical equipment manufacturers.

Biomedical equipment technicians, sometimes called biomedical engineering technicians, biomed techs, or just BMETs, typically work for a hospital or an independent service organization. They may work on many types of equipment, or they may specialize in only certain types of equipment such as anesthesia machines, imaging equipment, dialysis equipment or laboratory equipment. Biomedical equipment technicians perform preventive maintenance, safety inspections and repair on most medical electronic equipment in hospitals across the nation. But the job doesn't end there. They also train hospital staff on the safe and proper use of the equipment, investigate incidents involving medical equipment and keep up with hazard alerts and recalls. BMETs also must strive to remain current with their own skills and education as technology changes.

Field service representatives for medical equipment manufacturers usually only work with equipment made by their employer that is either under warranty, under contract for repair with a hospital or clinic, or isn't feasibly maintainable by BMETs in a hospital environment. These "FSRs" are sometimes called customer service engineers, field service engineers or field service technicians, and may cover several hospitals or several hundred hospitals as part of their territory.

These medical equipment service professionals are an unassuming bunch and don't usually draw much attention to themselves, even though they can, and do, perform seemingly heroic acts and "save the day" when equipment malfunctions at critical moments. …

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