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Biomedical Equipment Technology

Biomedical equipment technology

Definition

Biomedical equipment technology professionals are employed at jobs involving the repair, sale, calibration, installation, troubleshooting, and management of biomedical instrumentation and electronics technology in the health industry.

Description

Biomedical equipment technology is a profession that requires broad knowledge of biomedical system instrumentation. Necessary knowledge includes system usage, maintenance responsibilities, and ways to obtain data on an extensive range of monitoring, diagnostic, therapeutic, and surgical instrumentation. Solutions to issues encountered while interacting with doctors, nurses, and other technicians who use biomedical instrumentation are often studied and realized by those in the profession. A biomedical equipment technologist must study electronics, electronics management, medical physiology, and computer applications. After graduating, he or she may opt to specialize in particular types of equipment used, generally in nuclear medicine, surgery, radiology, clinical laboratory, dialysis, or intensive care.

Work settings

Graduates of biomedical equipment technology programs usually work

  • in hospitals
  • in medical clinics
  • at medical colleges
  • at medical research facilities
  • at computer and electronic instrumentation manufacturers
  • at companies as sales representatives or distributors
  • in United States government agencies
  • in the U.S. Armed Forces
  • in public health services
  • as field service technicians

On the job, a biomedical equipment technologist may work with machines used to diagnose and treat diseases or disorders, or those used to assist in the role of vital organs (e.g. a respirator). They often work under the supervision of biomedical engineers, performing such tasks as the evaluation, inspection, repair, maintenance, and installation of diverse instrumentation, including electrosurgical equipment; ultrasound devices; chemical analyzers; defibrillators; centrifuges; x-ray instrumentation; spectrophotometers; infusion pumps; heart , lung, and kidney dialysis machines; pacemakers ; infant incubators; respirators; blood pressure and heart rate monitors; and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI or NMR) machines.

Education and training

Biomedical equipment technologists may be trained at vocational schools (which may lead to a job involving on-the-job training), technical colleges, community colleges, military training schools, or at various universities as part of a standard Bachelor of Science program. Education includes instruction in electronics, circuit theory, computer applications, bio-instrumentation, health and safety, and general knowledge of human anatomy , physiology, and terminology. Background knowledge of physics and mathematics is essential and is expanded during coursework, especially involving applications of biomedical electronics. The technologist should possess solid communication skills, manual dexterity, and hand-eye coordination for labor on machine parts and electronic circuits. Education generally culminates in an associate's degree (two years) or a bachelor's degree (four years). Many programs associated with either degree sponsor extensive co-op or internship opportunities that provide ample occasion to sample some aspects of the field. Specialties are not commonly available during educational training, but one may choose to specialize upon graduation in a relevant type of instrumentation technology; it is possible to specialize in a specific instrument if the demand is great enough, or to specialize in education, repair, calibration, etc.

Upon graduation from an associate degree program, a graduate will be capable of performing a range of tasks. Erie Community College of western New York and the University of Florida (which adds the final four items) provide lists of what is expected of a typical graduate, reproduced below:

  • Be able to use the resistor color code and component recognition.
  • Be proficient at electronic soldering and terminating wire connections using solderless-type connectors.
  • Use a curve tracer to check all types of diodes, bipolar transistors, and field effect transistors.
  • Demonstrate proficiency in using electronic test instrumentation dual trace scopes, frequency counters, and function generators.
  • Be proficient at troubleshooting half-wave, full-wave, and bridge power supplies. In addition, students should be able to troubleshoot and repair voltage doublers.
  • Demonstrate proficiency in using electronic instrumentation.
  • Prototype multi-stage analog and digital circuits.
  • Interact with computer systems.
  • Isolate data communications systems faults.
  • Isolate and repair computerized process devices.
  • Analyze system malfunctions by relating program execution to specific groups of circuits.
  • Perform routine safety checks on equipment including ground and leakage current tests.
  • Read and interpret instructions and maintenance manuals as well as blueprints, mechanical drawings, and schematic diagrams related to equipment serviced.
  • Install equipment and provide instruction on its use to physicians, nurses, physical therapists, and others.
  • Inspect and calibrate equipment such as radiation monitors, blood gas analyzers, electrocardiographs, dialysis machines, and many others to insure safety and accuracy.
  • Modify components to meet specific therapeutic or diagnostic requirements.
  • Maintain an inventory of parts and tools used in repair work.

Advanced education and training

Technicians with an associate's degree have advancement opportunities including progressing to senior technician or shop supervisor and becoming certified within five years (normally two years); graduation results in eligibility to take the certification exam to become a certified biomedical equipment technician (CBET). With more advanced education, technicians may become instructors, administrators, or research assistants in medical research facilities. One may also advance through specializing, becoming an expert, in a particular type of equipment.

Technicians with a bachelor's degree have all the options open to associate's degree holders with additional alternatives. Qualified students may further their education in biomedical equipment technology with a masters or doctoral degree, usually in a field such as electrical engineering or biomedical engineering ; however, these graduates are then not generally classified as biomedical equipment technologists, but as biomedical engineers or an equivalent.

The International Certification Commission for Clinical Engineering and Biomedical Technology (ICC) is the group responsible for formally recognizing qualified biomedical equipment technicians (BMETs) through administration of written examinations. Certification is achieved by exhibiting high aptitude in both the theoretical aspects and practical applications of the central tenets of biomedical equipment technology. The exam board, which is overseen by the ICC and the United States Certification Commission (USCC), governs not only the CBET certification program, but also the programs of two specialties: radiology equipment specialists (CRES) and clinical laboratory equipment specialists (CLES). Each program requires a separate examination for certification and is entirely independent of the others. It is also possible to become certified by the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI).

Future outlook

Biomedical equipment technologists are employed throughout the world, and there is always a need for professionals who can understand, operate, and instruct other health professionals in the increasingly complex, rarefied business of biomedical instrumentation. The outlook for biomedical equipment technologists is better than average in the near future (as of 2001), through at least the year 2005.

The field of biomedical equipment technology is still considered relatively new, so job opportunities abound as new types of jobs are found for professionals with a biomedical equipment technology education and related experience. The plethora of biomedical devices on the market and waiting to reach the market is still accelerating, and as such, requires the assistance of biomedical equipment technicians to install, calibrate, test, maintain, evaluate, assist with usage of, instruct doctors and other health professionals about, and to repair. As might be expected, however, jobs for biomedical equipment technicians tend to be significantly greater in larger cities that include more hospitals and comparable medical facilities.

Resources

BOOKS

Carr, Joseph J., and John M. Brown. Introduction to Biomedical Equipment Technology, 4th ed. Prentice Hall, 2001.

ORGANIZATIONS

Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI). 1110 N. Glebe Road, Suite 220, Arlington, VA 22201-4795. (703)525-4890. Fax: (701)525-1424. <http://www.aami.org>.

OTHER

Biomedical Equipment Technology Program. <http://www.siu.edu/~imsasa/elm/biomed.htm>.

Biomedical Equipment Technology Program. <http://fhc.medinfo.ufl.edu/science/tech.html>.

Biomedical Equipment Technology Program. <http://www.sunyerie.edu/studentlife/student_acad_biomedical.php3>.

Bryan Ronain Smith

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