(ARA) – Start naming all the medical professionals you may run into at a hospital cafeteria: physicians, nurses, pharmacists and maybe a respiratory therapist or a laboratory technician. How about a radiation technician or a surgical technician? Continuing with your list, you may come up with a few more professionals, including a surgical resident, obstetrician, trauma surgeon, scrub nurse and a few interns. Right about now you’re probably running out of answers. This is a typical response from the casual observer.
There is one medical professional that people outside of the hospital family seldom see. However, inside the hospital this professional is known as one of the most important links in a health care team: the biomedical equipment technician or BMET for short.
So, what exactly is a BMET? “A biomedical equipment technician is a key hospital support professional who ensures that medical equipment functions properly,” says Scott Percy, program director and department chair of the Biomedical Equipment Technology Department at Brown Mackie College – Tucson. The job entails routine maintenance, calibration and repair of the equipment.
“This equipment, utilized by all hospital departments in treating and monitoring patients, must operate correctly every single hour and day of the year,” Percy continues. “No days off. It is a mega-job and a mentally demanding job that must be performed at 100 percent all the time. No excuses. And it can be one of the most rewarding careers you can imagine.”
If you have ever visited an emergency room or had surgery, you have seen a portion of all the monitors and machines – both beeping and silent – for which the BMET is responsible. A typical BMET enrolls in a two-year college program to earn an Associate of Applied Science degree in Biomedical Equipment Technology. In the course of study, the student gains comprehensive knowledge of electronic theory and application, computer systems and applications and anatomy and physiology. Even greater focus is placed on medical instrumentation function and patient application.
The U.S. Department of Labor reports that employment opportunities for this position are expected to grow faster than average from now until 2018. Reasons cited for exceptional growth include a rising demand for health care services and increasing complexity of medical technology.
“The typical student studying to become a BMET is atypical,” says Percy. “The student could be prior military assigned to aircraft maintenance or a recent high school graduate. The student could be an automotive technician or a mom with grown kids. Whether the student is 25 or 55, it makes no difference. If you are focused, willing to learn, have a professional attitude and a sense of empathy for the patients, you can be a success.”
“The common thread running through all successful BMETs is threefold. First, a heightened sense of customer service. Second, concern for the ultimate customer – the patient. And third, respect for the hospital staff. In addition, the BMET serves everyone else connected in any way to all of the above,” continues Percy.
“Can working as a BMET be difficult at times? Sure. The success rate can never be less than 100 percent – ever. BMETs encounter real life and death situations and the outcomes cannot be reversed,” Percy explains. “Will there be times when you wish you had four arms and could run the 100-yard dash in 9.8 seconds? You bet. But then, anything worthwhile is seldom a slam dunk. Working as a BMET can be the most rewarding career choice you can make. I know. I made that choice 33 years ago, and I never looked back. Now I am responsible for training the next generation of BMETs, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”