By Manny Jimenez, BSEET, CBETManny Jimenez

All senior BMETs should be certified. Period. Whether your organization calls its most experienced technicians BMET IIIs, lead technicians, or any other title, they should be CBETs.

I realize that some readers will disagree with me, or find my position too extreme. But before you turn the page in disgust, hear me out. Over my 7 years of working in biomed, I have come to realize that there are several clear advantages for both the technician and the organization that employs him or her to require certification. To begin with, being certified demonstrates to everyone that a senior technician hasn’t just gotten to that position through longevity, but has actually proven his or her skill set and knowledge. It means that the technician has taken the time to understand the theories behind how many medical devices operate as well as how the human body functions. This is extremely crucial and provides them with broader knowledge, which equates to enhanced troubleshooting skills.

Helping your organization get better patient outcomes by ensuring the equipment is running at optimal condition is awesome! But there are other positives that come with certification that can make a big difference in your personal bottom line or employment opportunities. I don’t think that anyone can argue with the idea that getting certified can open more doors to better job opportunities and higher pay. In addition, with your certification you get recognition and credibility from your peers and industry colleagues, along with a feeling of both personal and professional achievement. All these factors help build momentum to get you to the next level in your career.

Challenges and Rewards

Getting certified is no easy feat. It demands that you step out of your comfort zone. Going for certification forces you to look past our beloved circuit boards and into new and different areas like the human body and how it works, or more recently, the inner workings of computers and networks. Naturally, as you study for the test and gain new knowledge, you start to see how what you are learning directly applies to your work, and how important it is to keep your non-electronics skills and knowledge as sharp as possible.

I remember when I first read about Einthoven’s triangle while studying for my CBET exam. I found it interesting. But when I actually applied my knowledge of it on a service call involving a telemetry box, I found it amazing—almost like magic!

Learning about the science of healthcare and studying for the CBET exam are synonymous. I can say from personal experience that it is the single most enriching professional experience any biomed can have.

Patient Safety Above All

If you’re not buying my argument yet, ask yourself this question: If a senior BMET does not know how to inspect a piece of life support equipment or does not fully understand how it operates or what it is used for, can he or she contribute to a patient incident?

If your answer is yes, then you already understand how this directly relates, and that in the case of our profession, certification is key, too. If your answer is no, ask yourself this: Exactly what planet are you on?

Now it’s true that certification is no guarantee of safety. But it does increase the likelihood that the work we technicians do will contribute to safe outcomes for patients. Certification shows a level of expertise. If you don’t know what you are doing, you can hurt patients. Testing people on their knowledge of theory before letting them near patients is a good idea for practitioners, and it is also a good idea for those of us who manage medical technology.

Since senior BMETs work on the most sophisticated life support equipment, if they lack the necessary knowledge of anatomy and physiology, equipment theory, and electronics, they might well pass a piece of equipment that should have failed. As a result, they can potentially contribute to a patient incident.

As part of the certification process, BMETs have to show knowledge of anatomy and physiology. Such knowledge is essential to spotting potential problems that uncertified technicians may simply miss. Here’s one example: Suppose a blood gas analyzer prints out a result of “1.” Seeing this number will alarm anyone with basic knowledge of anatomy and physiology. Unless the patient has battery acid for blood, it will be clear that the blood gas analyzer is out of calibration. On the other hand, to a technician without the knowledge of anatomy and physiology that the CBET exam requires, a readout of “1” may appear perfectly acceptable.

The combination of medical equipment theory with anatomy and physiology that certification requires enhances a technician’s troubleshooting ability. It can also help the BMET spot potential problems that nurses or doctors might not have noticed or reported yet. Only by making certification mandatory for all senior or higher-level BMETs can we really say that we are supporting this positive outcome.

No Disrespect

To those who feel disrespected or angry about what I am writing, especially those who have been in biomed longer than I’ve been alive, please do not misunderstand me. Realize the following:

  • I would never say that certification makes you a better person than your peers. My point is simply that certification is one important indication of a quality technician.
  • Not being certified is NOT an indication of how engaged you are in your department or the biomed industry, or even of your level of competency. I have not asserted that here and never will.

It is natural for those who have put in their time and paid their dues but are not certified to feel anger or resentment toward what I’m saying. I understand. But in the long run, I believe certification is good for our profession. Progress, respect, higher pay, and job security go hand-in-hand with mandatory certification for higher-level BMETs.

Think about this for a minute. You have worked hard to get to your level as a BMET. You went to school, you did the PMs, you completed the repairs—in other words, you paid your dues. Wouldn’t you like to know that for newcomers to get to your level, they need to pay their dues as well? Certification is one way to get that.

How We Get There

Now if you are wondering who would require certification, the truth is, I don’t know. But we should start taking baby steps by letting the department managers require CBET certification for their top-level BMETs.

In order for any of this to start to happen, a lot of people have to buy in. Enough managers and BMETs will have to advocate for this and start to implement it in their departments so that it becomes common practice. The best course of action for those who agree with me is to hold department meetings to start the conversation about certification. Reach agreements with management—many times, employers are willing to pay for the fees involved in certification.

These are just some of the reasons why I feel that certification of senior BMETs should be required. At the end of the day, it’s all about patient safety. The only way to ensure that we are doing all we can to protect patients is to insist upon having certified technicians verifying the proper operation of high-risk or life-support equipment.

Manny Jimenez, BSEET, CBET, is a senior BMET in New York. For more information, contact [email protected].