Biomedical technicians are also called medical equipment repairers or service technicians because they test, maintain and repair equipment used in health care. They work for equipment wholesalers, hospitals and electronic repair firms. Because biomedical devices can be large and bulky, technicians often have to travel to customer sites to perform their jobs.
The minimum educational requirement for biomedical technicians is an associate degree in biomedical technology or engineering, which is available from trade schools and community colleges. Those working on simple equipment, such as electric wheelchairs, need only a high-school diploma to learn their skills on the job. For CAT scanners and other complex devices, technicians may need a bachelor’s degree. Most workers start by helping more experienced employees for up to six months. They then gradually move into independent work. Because each device is different, technicians must learn how to manage each one separately. They must always keep up with advancing technology by attending seminars or through self-study. Optional certifications can increase your job opportunities.
Biomedical technicians first install a machine and adjust it to meet the needs of the facility or the patient. They then test all its parts to ensure that they function according to quality standards. They also explain the advantages of the devices to health-care staff, point out available printed and online documentation, and may instruct on the operation of the equipment. At regular intervals, they return to maintain the machine and answer questions. If the equipment breaks down, they make repairs. They end each call by keeping records of what they did.
If these professionals specialize in one type of medical device, their job titles change to reflect their expertise. For example, X-ray service engineers focus on X-ray equipment, while dental equipment technicians focus on devices in dental offices. Because medical equipment in hospitals is often attached to patients, technicians must be comfortable working around injured or disabled individuals with a minimum of disturbance. Other necessary skills for the profession include stamina for being in awkward positions for long periods, dexterity for using tools and time-management for performing complex repairs as quickly as possible.
One example of a biomedical technician is Paul W. Kelley, who has worked as a supervisor of biomedical engineering at Washington Hospital Healthcare System since 1998. He began his career in 1979 with an associate degree in electronics and biomedical electronics. He then found a job with UCLA Medical Center’s clinical engineering department. He received certification as a biomedical equipment technician and became a senior electronics technician. Later, at Santa Clara Valley Hospital in California, he earned several promotions until he became manager of biomedical engineering in 1993. He remained there until he accepted his supervisor position.