A Life as a Biomed

May 26, 2011

A Life as a Biomed

For those of you who don’t know, a biomed is a term for what we are known as within the industry. This is short for biomedical engineer. We are now referred to as, officially, clinical technologists. There are varying types of clinical technologists. Here, I am referring to clinical technologists that deal with medical equipment management within the NHS.

Over recent years, the typical day for a biomed has become rather busy. As the amount of equipment used within our various hospital wards and departments grows, so does our job to respond to enquiries for equipment to be repaired, or safety checks carried out for the correct performance of the equipment , or indeed just some help or advice when medical equipment is being used.

We work in all, and I mean all, areas of a typical large acute hospital. Areas where we tend to work mostly are the intensive care areas, theatre suites and accident and emergency departments. The more equipment there is in any one department, the greater the chance of some sort of equipment failure being reported. Usually a prompt and speedy response is expected in these sorts of areas, and is normally responded in that way.

I am responsible for the issues with medical equipment in the NICU, or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, in my hospital. Here, I get involved with setting up ventilators prior to use with the neonates. I also try and sort out problems as they arise; otherwise I end up swamped with things to be done. I also get involved with any training I have to give to other biomeds in relation to equipment used within NICU. As I am based in the maternity block, I am responsible for any issues in all the other maternity areas as well.

A typical day:

9am-  Start the day by checking what equipment has been left for me overnight in NICU. A ventilator is waiting for me as the nurse has had problems setting it up and passing the pre-use checks. We have had problems with a recent batch of ventilator circuits where they fail when we carry out a leak test on them. They do not leak, but the compliance, or stiffness, of the material of the circuits cause too much expansion. This creates too much of a pressure drop, even though it is very little, for the ventilator’s software and renders the test as failed. I pass it with my criteria as agreed with a senior clinical biomed and the senior nursing staff of the unit.

10.00- Tea break.

10.15- An anaesthetic machine has gone down in the hospital’s theatres. As I am also part of the repair team of biomeds, and I have been trained on these machines, I am sent to inspect the machine. The equipment does not pass all the self-tests required for use. I try resolving the problem and realize the problem is internal. As we have a maintenance contract with the manufacturer, I decide to download the error files and send them to the manufacturer. This should cut down the downtime of the machine as the error logs should flag up what parts may be required for the job to be completed.

11.15- Get back to continuing a job left over from the previous day, carrying out a planned preventative maintenance of a volumetric infusion pump. We have dedicated test equipment to measure rate delivery and occlusion levels, but we also have to interface the pump to testing software to carry out other function checks like the display, LEDs illuminate, certain internal parts operate normally and other tests to do with the function of the equipment. Following all jobs like this, we carry out an electrical safety test, as recommended by the government body for medical equipment management, the MHRA.

12.30- Lunch

13.00-  The maternity ward upstairs had left a message on my answer phone. They have some items that require repairing. An infusion pump that has crashed to the floor- probably due to a mum-to-be in the middle of labour  either grabbing onto it with extreme force or possibly it being thrown across the room. Also, they have some ultrasound probes that usually picks up the fetal heart beat on the cardiotacograph equipment that don’t seem to work anymore. I take the equipment to the workshop and book them in as repair jobs. If they are deemed as urgent, they will be looked at with some priority. The repair shelf is usually quite full on a typical day.

14:00- I get on with some routine work to carry out either repair work or planned safety checking and maintenance of the hospital’s medical equipment.

And now you know the life of a biomed.