I have been a fence sitter when it comes to the subject of certification for biomeds—until recently. I personally did not even take the test until I had been in the field for several decades. I took it, not because I needed to or because I would get a raise or other compensation, I chose to take it because I was leading a CBET study group. I decided then that if I could teach it, why not take it? While I did have some reservations about what it would mean if I did not pass it after so many years in the field, I went forth. Luckily, I did pass. In the past, I was lukewarm about certification because I (like most of us) have known some really great biomeds who were not certified, and some really horrible ones who were. (I know some people who have their driver’s license who I will not ride with.) I also have some questions about the relevancy of portions of the test.

As a manager, I take certification into account when interviewing biomeds for employment, and my staff is required to be certified—or get certified—within a reasonable amount of time. I am fairly lenient, as long as they can show me that they are making progress toward it, and I document their progress on their annual evaluation. So what is it that changed my mind?

At a recent meeting of the Bay Area Chapter of the California Medical Instrumentation Association (CMIA), there was a discussion about certification. In this discussion, it was pointed out that in California there are many occupations that need to have licenses and/or certifications by the state. There are more than 40 different professions that have licenses issued by the California Department of Consumer Affairs (tinyurl.com/28ahnd). These professions within the medical field include the expected physicians, dentists, nurses, and chiropractors, but they also include occupational therapists, optometrists, physical therapists, physician assistants, psychiatric technicians, and speech-language pathologists and audiologists. Several professions outside the medical realm are also governed and require licenses and/or certifications. Some of the industries included in this are automotive, barbering and cosmetology, cemetery and funeral, electronic and appliance repair, hearing aid dispensers, home furnishings, landscape architects, security and investigative, and structural pest.

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So, the people who cut my parents’ hair, fix their car and their stove, arrange their plants, check their house for termites, oversee their funeral, and ensure the security of the graveyard are all licensed to do business. When I thought of that, it made me realize why we need to be certified, if not licensed and registered. The people who do all of those jobs for my parents are licensed, but the guy working on the equipment that is keeping them alive while they are in the hospital is not. As a matter of fact, there are people with the title and the job who are not properly trained. While I think it is a good thing that we can train people, there needs to be a minimum standard as to job training requirements. I believe that we should all help out and get more training programs, or at least make sure our profession is exactly that—professional. Often, I hear biomeds complain about their working conditions, and how their administration does not appreciate them. I think we need to raise the level of the field and start requiring certification.

ICC certification for BMETs is a formal recognition by the International Certification Commission for clinical engineering and biomedical technology (ICC) that individuals have demonstrated excellence in theoretical as well as practical knowledge of the principles of biomedical equipment technology. (See www.aami.org.)

The examination for certification as a BMET consists of anatomy and physiology (approximately 13%); public (employee, patient, visitor) safety in the health care facility (approximately 17%); fundamentals of electricity, electronics, and solid-state devices (approximately 17%); medical equipment function and operation (approximately 26%); and medical equipment problem solving (approximately 27%).

One person told me recently that he would have taken the test earlier in his career if it had been a requirement. If we keep the bar low, we will always meet the expectations. Let’s lift the bar and the field. A good start is certification.

Paul Kelley, CBET, is manager, biomedical engineering, Washington Hospital, Fremont, Calif. For more information, contact .