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BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERING TECHNOLOGY

How do doctors know that equipment such as defibrillators, infusion pumps or electrosurgical generators are going to work properly every time they are needed? Equipment maintenance and evaluation is part of the job of biomedical engineering technologists or technicians and biomedical equipment technicians (all known as BMETs). BMETs are professionals dedicated to ensuring the safe, effective and efficient use of medical technology.

To be a good BMET, you need a sympathetic, helpful attitude and a friendly, relaxed manner. You need to be a quick, clear thinker who can describe activities concisely and enjoy taking part in teamwork.

Some of the activities you might do as a BMET are:

  • Safety inspections, risk assessments and corrective repairs
  • Hardware and software updating
  • Service parts sourcing and purchasing
  • Equipment evaluation and testing
  • Instrument calibration
  • Operator in-service training
  • Equipment design and modification
  • Equipment installations
  • Home care equipment installation, maintenance and user instruction
  • Computer networking installation and maintenance
  • Service department management

Where Will You Work?

As a BMET, you either work at a hospital or a biomedical company. In a hospital position, you probably work 35 - 37 hours per week. This is not usually weekend or shift work. You probably wear a lab coat or 'scrubs'. You work in such areas as diagnostic imaging, surgery, cardiology, research and development, home care, respiratory, hemodialysis, trauma, emergency or in the laboratory.

At a biomedical company, you might travel a lot and have to work weekends or evenings to service clients. You might even have to go to clients' homes to install and maintain clinical equipment, as well as train the patient or the family in its use.

How Does the Future Look?

The Occupational Outlook Handbook, 1996-97 edition, reports that jobs in the biomedical equipment field are expected to grow at a rate of 14 per cent through the year 2005. The research and development sector of the biomedical industry has also been growing in the last few years. Hospital employment has remained steady and every major health care facility has its own biomedical engineering department, or 'Biomed shop'.

Major suppliers of clinical instruments, diagnostic devices and safety assurance are an ever-growing employment sector as are the 'third party' service organizations who repair, calibrate and provide home care equipment.

How Much Will You Earn?

Average senior position: $65,500

In a hospital you would be in a union and likely make a higher salary than if you worked for a biomedical company. The earning potential is much higher in biomedical sales positions.

Starting wages for newly-employed workers can be $10,000 less than the averages reported above depending on the training benefits that the particular employer may provide. As a new BMET you might spend a lot of your time on courses for equipment-specific training at the employer's expense and not be considered fully qualified (and eligible for higher wages) until such training is complete.

Most employers provide medical, dental and disability benefits as well as paid vacation.

How Can You Get Started?

In high school be sure to take courses in math, English, and science, especially chemistry and biology.

What Will You Need?

As a BMET, you need technical knowledge and skills. You also need to understand the scientific basis of medical technology and clinical applications.

In western Canada, a typical program involves a two-year course of study leading to a Diploma of Biomedical Engineering Technology accredited by an association of professional technologists and technicians.

Education and training will cover both technical and medical topics. You will study courses in technical communications; mathematics; statistics; basic, organic and analytic chemistry and biochemistry; human anatomy and physiology; physics and biophysics; electricity and equipment; and medical imaging, diagnostic and therapeutic devices.

Other programs may require two years of electronics or mechanical technology study followed by a third year of electronics; biomedical devices; digital electronics; microprocessor applications; and current standards for medical equipment and facilities.

You also learn fundamental principles, operation, performance assurance testing procedures, standards and troubleshooting for a range of medical instruments. These instruments include physiological monitors, defibrillators, infusion pumps, electrosurgical generators, clinical laboratory equipment, and medical imaging, diagnostic and therapeutic devices.

Other programs may require two years of electronics or mechanical technology study followed by a third year concentrating on the medical equipment and clinical aspects of the profession.

Post Secondary Possibilities

College
Program
Accredited Status
Discipline
BCIT
Biomedical Engineering Technologist Biomedical

  • Programs listed are those accredited by the Applied Science Technologists & Technicians of British Columbia (ASTTBC); check www.asttbc.org for updates on accredited programs.
  • Check with your career facilitator or counsellor for other sources of information applicable to education options for this technology.
  • Salary figures indicated in the 'How Much Will You Earn?' section are extracted from ASTTBC's Member Compensation Survey or other Canadian sources applicable to the specific technology discipline. These figures are representative only; actual figures will vary depending on academic training, practical experience, job responsibilities and location of employment.
  • The TechWORKS! web site is an important online resource and provides links to career information that will be of interest to students pursuing a career in technology.

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