Q: WHAT IS A BMET OR BIOMED?
A: Biomedical Equipment Technicians (BMET) are responsible for the performance and maintenance of a hospital’s patient care equipment. Their duties include: maintenance (returning equipment to operational status), preventative maintenance (periodically insuring each of the hospitals thousands of devices are functioning properly), and assisting with the procurement of new devices and contracts, training users in the operation and care of equipment and evaluating failures. With such a variety of equipment and tasks there are opportunities for advancement and diversity while knowing that you are a significant member of the health care delivery team.
Q: WHAT EQUIPMENT IS A BMET RESPONSIBLE?
A: A large community general hospital may have 10,000 devices. All must be uniquely defined and records maintained of their maintenance and performance history. This is a large task itself, requiring dedicated computer database applications. A random list of equipment includes: Electrocardiographs, Electroencephalographs, X-ray , MRI, Blood warmers, infusion pumps, humidifiers, cell counters, cell washers, dialysis machines, physiological mentoring systems, anesthesia machines, hospital beds, microscopes, lasers, ultrasonic imaging, sterilizers, blood gas analyzers, ventilators, surgical lamps, clinical lab analyzers, electrosurgical unit, resuscitators, The industry organizations ECRI maintains a categorized list of over 6,000 types.
Q: WHAT ARE THE JOB OPPORTUNITIES?
A: Most BMETs are hospital employees of a department called Clinical Engineering or Biomedical Engineering or hired by an organization contracted to perform these services. These department’s responsibilities vary between institutions and may service thousands of devices from beds and scales to large X-ray systems and digital imaging networks. Few institutions have the staff to support everything so responsibility for some are contracted out to the equipment manufacturers or thirds party service organizations. They in turn hire BMETs a Field Service Engineers to maintain unique equipment for many institutions in an area or even country wide.
Q: HOW MANY BMETS ARE THERE?
A: In 2000 the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook estimated there were 11,000 positions equivalent to a BMET. However 2006-7 edition reports 29,000 an almost 3 fold increase in 6 years.
Q: IS SPECIAL EDUCATION REQUIRED?
A: Typically one obtains an Associates degree in BMET from a community college or if in the Military Service, completing the Sheppard Air Force Base’s Department of Defense BMET School course. Others receive on-the-job-training (OJT) and attend manufacturer’s classes after receiving formal training in electronics. After employment continuing education for certification (CBET), manufacturer’s classes or completion of a BS degree offer paths for advancement and increased calery.
Q: WHAT WILL BMETS LEARN IN SCHOOL?
A: They will obtain a basic understanding of health sciences physiology and anatomy and their terminology. Preparation also includes math, physics and electronics and the ability to navigate schematics. Classes cover basics of sensors and rudiments of data acquisition. A cooperative education (co-op) or internship periods expose students to the realities of current equipment.
Q: WHAT TYPE OF PERSON COULD BE A FUTURE BMET?
A: Future BMETS should be endowed with a variety of attributes. On the technical side are the abilities to reason, solve problems and enjoy challenges. Communicative skills are extremely important, not only with your peers, but with those who use the equipment from doctors to nurses and laboratory technicians and other support departments as purchasing, IT and accounting. The person should be self-motivated; dedicated to customer service and improving themselves; ability of working independently or on a team and capable of setting priorities.
Q: CAN YOU DESCRIBE A TYPICAL DAY ON THE JOB?
A: Over a period of a year, half you time is spent performing PMs. Much of the remainder of the day is spent repairing unplanned equipment failures. If life support equipment failed you may become a sleuth to determine what went wrong. The remainder may be on the phone answering questions about equipment use or issues, performing in-service training or evening recommending a product or service for purchase.
Q: ARE THERE OPPORTUNITIES FOR ADVANCEMENT?
A: Advancement can occur along many paths. There are hundreds of equipment types around the hospital for one to be an expert on all. However by expressing an interest in various equipment types your value increases. Much of today’s equipment is connected via networks so capability in IT and connectivity plus medical devices allows advancement opportunities in either camp. Medium and large hospitals require many BMETs which results in management opportunities. This usually requires continuing education or management training. Additional growth in the field increases with chains or outsourcing organizations.
Q: WHAT IS THE SALARY OF A BMET?
A: In 2005 an average BMET on the Pacific Coast has 16 years experience and earned almost $60K/year a 10% increase over 2004. Newcomers to the field will earn over $20K less per year. Certified, management and specialists earn more. Click here 24/7 Magazine to view this year’s BMET salary survey.