If you’ve ever had an x-ray or an MRI scan, or visited a hospital patient who was on a ventilator or hooked to a heart monitor, then you’ve witnessed just a few of the many medical devices that are routinely used today. That’s no surprise. But did you ever consider that all of that medical equipment — the machines, the monitors, the multitude of diagnostic devices — is maintained by skilled technicians whose role is essential to the smooth running of our health care system — and to patients’ health?
In this week’s Episode, ATETV visits Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, which offers a major in Medical Electronics, a course that can set the stage for a career as a Biomedical Equipment Technician or BMET. Biomedical Engineers are named by U.S. News and World Report as one of the Best Careers of 2010, the career outlook in this field remains strong today — BMETs can anticipate a fast-paced, rapidly changing work environment, as well as the reward of knowing that your work is literally helping to save people’s lives.
And, with new medical technologies constantly being developed, the job market is growing. The latest figures from the 2010-2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics report that employment in this field is projected to increase 27 percent by 2018 — much faster than the average for all occupations — and that excellent job opportunities are expected. One reason: As the population ages, the demand for overall healthcare will increase. As healthcare demand increases, so too will the need for highly skilled technicians to maintain the intricate medical devices used to run tests, perform diagnoses, and administer therapies.
Here are some more facts about the career, from the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI).
Job responsibilities: BMETs are responsible for servicing and maintaining medical equipment and other technologies for hospitals, healthcare facilities, manufacturers and third-party service organizations around the world. BMETs also install the equipment and train doctors, nurses, surgeons and other medical personnel to use the cutting-edge equipment.
Skills needed: A strong interest in science, mechanics and new technologies, as well as a desire to help improve healthcare delivery are all desirable qualifications in a BMET, as are good technical and problem-solving abilities, strong aptitude in mechanics and good hand-eye coordination. Successful BMETs are also detail-oriented, work well as part of a team, and have good communication skills.
Examples of medical equipment that are maintained: Consider that a large hospital might have as many as 10,000 medical devices in operation at any given time, according to the AAMI. These could include EKG machines (electrocardiographs), EEG (electroencephalograph) machines, X-rays, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scanners, blood warmers, infusion pumps, humidifiers, dialysis machines, blood gas analyzers….and the list goes on and on.
Educational requirements: A course of study in medical electronics generally includes classes in math, physics and electronics, as well as courses in basic health science physiology and anatomy. At Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, students in the Medical Electronics Engineering program develop troubleshooting skills in analog circuits, digital circuits and processers. They also learn medical terminology and the operation of medical instruments, including EKG instruments, defibrillators and incubators.
To learn more about the educational requirements needed for a career in the medical electronics field, visit the AAMI website where you can also find videos and descriptions of the day-to-day life of a biomedical equipment technician.
And, the next time you’re in a hospital setting, take a minute to pause and listen — the beeps and alarms you hear are the result of the work of a BMET — and they may very well be saving someone’s life.