Health care professionals rely on medical equipment to diagnose, monitor and treat their patients. When these devices fail to work properly, lives are at stake. Biomedical technicians, also known as biomedical equipment technicians (BMET), biomedical electronics technicians, biomedical engineering technicians, clinical engineering technicians and medical equipment service technicians, are trained to maintain and repair electronic, electromechanical and other types of equipment used in medical settings.
Significant Impact on Patient Care
Life support systems, defibrillators, heart monitors, intravenous (IV) machines and imaging equipment (x-ray, ultrasound, CT and MRI scanners) must function properly for health care teams to make informed decisions and administer quality care. In situations where the equipment requiring attention is already in use, technicians may have to interact one-on-one with patients to resolve the problem. According to Don Whiteside, who has worked in hospital management for over 25 years and holds designation of Certified Biomedical Equipment Technician (CBET) Emeritus from the International Certification Commission (ICC), the opportunity "to directly help people in a very significant way" is one of the biggest benefits of working as a biomedical technician.
Work with Cutting-Edge Technology
To provide the most up-to-date patient care and remain competitive in today's tough health care environment, hospitals strive to offer the most innovative technology available. Biomedical technicians become experts on new equipment through on-the-job training, seminars, manufacturer training classes, certification exams and self-study. Since many new medical devices integrate computers as an essential component, people who work in biomedical and clinical engineering must also stay current with computer technology.
Positive Projected Job Growth
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the medical equipment service profession to grow by 22 percent between 2006 and 2016 (much faster than the average for all occupations) due to higher demand for medical services and greater complexity of equipment. Whiteside stated, "Hospitals are required by regulatory and accreditation agencies to have medical equipment maintenance programs that need the skills of biomedical technicians, resulting in typically stable job security and good pay." While some technicians hold advanced degrees, most entry-level positions require an associate's degree. The average pay is $40,580 but can vary significantly by experience and location. Beyond hospitals, biomedical technicians may find jobs with medical equipment manufacturers, the military and independent service companies.
Stressful Working Environment
Medical environments can be intense. Patients' lives may depend on equipment; there is no room for error. Biomedical technicians must be able to quickly apply problem solving skills while working under pressure---sometimes with patients still attached to machines. The health care field is a 24/7 work environment. Technicians may be on call or work off shifts, weekends and holidays.
A Specialized Field
The training biomedical technicians receive may sometimes be specific to the equipment used in their particular workplace. Such in-depth knowledge improves job performance but can also be somewhat limiting when seeking employment should layoffs occur or hospitals decide to outsource support of medical equipment to independent companies. "This is something of a 'niche' field in which people tend to stay in their positions for long periods, making job openings somewhat infrequent and often geographically scattered," Whiteside said. "On the other hand, employers do have difficulty finding qualified candidates, so experienced technicians continue to be in demand".
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US Bureau of Labor Statistics