A Shocking Tale: Biomedical Equipment Technicians to the Rescue

25 Feb

(A recent post from our TechCareers blog.)

Imagine you’re in the hospital. Already a little uneasy, uncomfortable and wishing you could be anywhere else, you get hooked up to monitors and other equipment for doctors and nurses to track your progress. Your health in this imaginary case isn’t in real danger, but nonetheless you’re being treated for something you’ll be glad to be rid of.

And then something goes terribly wrong.

You go into cardiac arrest and it happens so quickly nurses and doctors have little, if any time at all to come to your rescue. Suddenly, a hospital visit that was meant to last a day or two turns into your family’s worst nightmare.

This scenario was a very common occurrence in the 1960s, and the years leading up to the birth of the biomedical equipment technician profession. This field, still considered “young,” was created as the direct result of a growing concern for hospital patients in the care of medical equipment. Many reports surfaced around the mid 1960s to early 1970s, stating that stray electrical currents in the hospital equipment were actually inducing ventricular fibrillation in patients, leading to thousands of unnecessary deaths.

To put it simply, improperly grounded medical equipment was electrocuting the heart. The jolts of electrical currents caused the heart to lose its normal rhythm. Once this happened, it was extremely hard to get the heart back on the right beat. In 1969, Dr. Carl Walter from Peter Bent Brigham hospital, estimated around 1,200 deaths occurred each year due to the lack of care and maintenance of hospital equipment, while other reports went as far as to estimate around 12,000 each year.

Lucky for all of us, the biomedical equipment technician (BMET) has now been around for forty years. They care for the equipment the way doctors and nurses care for their patients, and even though it’s a small field with an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 technicians, it is growing rapidly.

These technicians can even be compared with the avionics technicians who work behind the scenes on aircrafts. Even though their work often goes unnoticed, both professions play crucial roles in keeping people safe from harm.

Biomedical Equipment Technicians, one of TSTC Publishing’s books in the TechCareers series, offers a brief overview of the profession and is the perfect resource for someone interested in pursing a career in the technological medical field.

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