Biomedical Equipment Technician

Imagine a person lying in a hospital bed hooked to a heart monitor and ventilator. If these machines are not working properly, the person could die. Thanks to the work of biomedical equipment technicians, these machines will be functioning properly, prolonging the patient's life. Bio-Medical Equipment Technicians, also know as a Biomedical Engineering Technologists (BMETs) or Biomedical Equipment Specialists (BESs) are highly skilled technologists responsible for ensuring that medical equipment is fully functional, safe and properly configured. Biomedical Equipment Technicians are usually employed by clinics, hospitals (in the Biomedical or Clinical Engineering Department), third-party independent service organizations (ISOs) or original equipment manufacturer, and the military. These professionals install, inspect, maintain, calibrate, repair, modify and even design biomedical equipment and support systems to make sure they adhere to stringent medical standard guidelines. Biomedical Equipment Technicians also educate and advise staff and other agencies on basic physiological principles, theory of operation, and procedures for safe clinical application of biomedical equipment.

Examples of different areas of biomedical equipment technology include Radiographic and flouroscopic x-ray, LASERs, Diagnostic ultrasound, Mammography, Film image processing, Telemedicine, Nuclear Medicine, Gamma cameras, Medical imaging, Positron emission tomography (PET), Computed Tomography (CT), Picture archiving and communication systems (PACS), Electron microscope, Magnetic Resonance Imaging instrument (MRI scanner), Optometry, Sterilization, Dental, Surgical, Physiological monitoring, Laboratory, Anesthesia, Dialysis, Respiratory Services (ventilators) Computers, Patient Monitoring, Information Technology, and Cardiac Diagnostics. As you can see Biomedical Equipment Technicians work with a very large and diverse array of state-of-the-art medical devices and equipment. Consequently, these professionals must be highly skilled technicians.

Indirectly, biomedical equipment technicians assist patients recovering from health problems while not having to witness a lot of blood or gore. Bomedical equipment technicians work with the newest medical technology such as combined PET/CT scanners, and robotic radiosurgery units, equipment used to destroy tumors without harming the surrounding cells. Individuals who want to become a biomedical equipment technician need to earn at minimum a 2 year degree - preferably a 4 year degree. After graduating, candidates typically have numerous job opportunities and stable employment. Biomedical equipment technician jobs will not be outsourced to foreign countries, and technicians will operate state of the art remote diagnostics equipment. For example, if a MRI machine broke down in Texas, a technician in another state could diagnose the problem.

Biomedical equipment technicians may experience tremendous stress. If a heart or lung monitoring machine were to quit functioning, a technician would have to diagnose and solve the problem immediately. As a result, technicians need to possess the aptitude to repair equipment and reprogram the computers operating the machines in short order. For example, technicians are often required to reprogram an automatic infusion pump, a device notifying health care professionals if a dose of medication could harm a patient. Biomedical equipment technicians must understand computer software, hardware, and networking.

Biomedical equipment technicians are usually required to be on call 24 hours a day one week out of each month. However, technicians are typically only called in once or twice a week.

Next time you are walking through a hospital and hear the sounds of life saving equipment coming from patients' rooms, thank a biomedical equipment technician.

Education and Training

Most entry-level technicians enter the field with a 2-year associate's degree in a related field or they spend about one year in full-time military training to obtain required job skills. A 4-year graduate is an applied engineer who can perform the same medical equipment management duties as a clinical engineer, BMET Manager, or Director/Executive. Practical experience is typically gained through internships and on the job training. Continuing education is frequently provided by medical device manufacturers.

Many aspiring biomedical equipment technicians will pursue a professional industry certification in order to become a certified biomedical equipment technician (CBET). There are two other certifications biomedical equipment technicians can obtain including the Certified Laboratory Equipment Specialists (CLES), and Certified Radiology Equipment Specialists (CRES). In many cases, carrying the title of "CBET" (Certified Biomedical Equipment Technician), while not required, is highly encouraged as it is well respected within the technical community.

Salary Data

Median (8 years of experience): $49,000

25-75 percentile (8 years or more of experience): $46,100-68,400

Biomedical equipment technicians working for equipment manufacturers, holding certain certifications, can earn salaries exceeding $90,000.

Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, growth in the biomedical electronics field is expected to continue its growth at its current pace. Technological advances and the desire for HMOs to improve efficiency and cut costs will create more demand for skilled technicians. Job opportunities exist for biomedical equipment technicians in hospitals as junior-level biomedical equipment technicians, service maintenance organizations, and equipment manufacturers.

The medical equipment repair and service occupation is projected to grow by 22 percent between 2006 and 2016. This is a tremendous growth rate, much faster than the average for all occupations do the same time period. This growth will be due to increased demand for medical services as well as the increasing complexity of the medical equipment used in clinics and hospitals. Job and career opportunities should be especially favorable for biomedical equipment technicians who have a strong knowledge of software and electronics, as many new medical devices and equipment are increasingly reliant on computer technology.

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