Coming Together for Pediatric Care

Pediatric care is the name of the game at Children’s Mercy Kansas City, a 367-bed medical center situated in Western Missouri. Below, Tri Q. Dang, BS, biomedical equipment tech III, team lead for Children’s Mercy’s (CHM) clinical engineering department, discusses what sets his team apart and how “teamwork” is more than just a department creed.

24×7 Magazine: Can you please tell us a little bit about your department and the equipment you maintain?

Tri Dang: Our clinical engineering department helps support Children’s Mercy’s mission, vision, and values. As Kansas City’s pediatric hospital network and a bedrock of the community, we treat some of the most complicated and acute cases nationwide. We are a pediatric, teaching hospital as well as a research institution, and we now support the new Children Mercy’s Research Institute. With love and compassion, our hospitals aim to overdeliver to our patients, which means our clinical engineering department has to deliver first-class service to the clinical staff.

Our shop—which is made up of 26 team members and led by manager Kevin Johnson and Ken Ervin, director of biomedical engineering—processed 26,500 work orders in the past year. Our mission is to complete 100% of scheduled maintenance within a month and corrected work orders within two days. We also look after the equipment lifecycle and assist in capital equipment acquisitions and planning.

Medical equipment is not the only thing we do for our hospital, however. We also maintain the nurse call system, patient TVs, and the GetWell system. We [work hard to] ensure that we are there whenever our nursing staff needs us. Inter-departmental communication allows us to stay flexible and adaptable to the complexity of supporting a multispecialty hospital system.

Our vision is to be the best clinical engineering department in the Midwest by providing high-quality service in times of stress. It starts with training and grooming our technicians to reach new heights at Children’s Mercy. A large portion of our time is spent grooming upcoming leaders within our department. [For instance,] our technicians use customized career-ladder training records to keep chronological recordings of their training and help them advance.

We also seek out technicians who share Children’s Mercy’s fundamental values. Our staff shares a strong connection to helping children and being caretakers, so delivering excellent service comes naturally, like breathing.

24×7: What would you say are the biggest challenges your team has faced during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Dang: We are blessed that COVID-19 had not impacted our pediatric hospitals like it has affected the general hospitals. Our toughest challenge has been sourcing parts such as temperature probes and respiratory therapy fittings. Other problems we have faced are OEM training restrictions and availability, as well as getting support from manufacturers. We must outbid other organizations to get support and/or parts. At times, major projects have taken a backseat, so we have had to find innovative ways to push forward.

In one situation, a department member recognized that he could slightly reconfigure ventilators normally used for our home care program for the hospital. It’s this kind of outside-the-box thinking that invites innovation and makes our technicians adaptable. With a little adjustment, we were able to increase our hospital’s respiratory equipment capacity. Facing the impossible with compassionate hands strengthened our department.

24×7: Maintaining a strong pipeline of talent is a challenge for any clinical engineering department—especially given the widespread graying of the field. So how does your team attract and retain department members?

Dang: Our department looks for unique individuals who share our passion and drive to deliver outstanding service to our organization. Our director serves as a technical advisor for community colleges that have biomedical programs in the Kansas City area. As the silver tsunami hits and our seasoned technicians continue to retire, we have built a bridge with State Technical College of Missouri in Linn.

Every year, we drive into the heart of Missouri to take part in a career day—where we  recruit candidates for our intern program and look for second-year hires. We interview all—and I mean all—of the candidates. It’s a long day, but it’s certainly worth it. We want to provide every interested student with the opportunity to speak to our staff and get a taste of the industry. In return, we are the first pick among the best and the brightest.   

We do our best to retain talent—and, by listening to our staff, we can create a more enjoyable workplace. Lack of growth was one major reason why individuals left in the past. But we’ve solved this dilemma by creating a career ladder progression program based on merits and a point system. As a bonus, everyone in leadership fosters trust through transparency and our open-door policy. We also foster cohesiveness through sharing the labor and [living out the creed] “you never lift heavy alone.” On numerous occasions, we’ve witnessed our director roll up his sleeves and assist with various projects. Our shop motto is “teamwork makes the dream work.”

24×7: How is your department working with IT to keep devices secure and thwart cyberattacks?

Dang: We work hand in hand with IT to implement policies to safeguard Children’s Mercy’s medical devices. And these polices will serve as guidelines to frame our plan for future cybersecurity threats. We have also enlisted help from Eminere Group, PWC, and Protiviti to look at our current threat level of the devices. And we regularly meet to analyze medical devices that carry and transmit

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without safety features.

Children’s Mercy’s biomedical IT guru, Brian Lynn, helps us stay current in the next phase of our cybersecurity plan. Because of the surge of cyberattacks on medical devices, we ensure our medical equipment is secure by having support from the top.   

24×7: What else should 24×7 Magazine readers know about your department?

Dang: The people make the department. Through careful hiring processes and selecting the right individuals, we have some of the best people in the profession. A key reason we are the best is because of our diversity. Although we have different backgrounds, we share the same values and passion. No BMET works in a silo; we have different talents and specialties, but we have camaraderie and a willingness to partner with each other to provide the services that Children’s Mercy needs for patient care.

Our differences allow us to share knowledge and life experiences that might be lost in a more standard shop. Although our people come from different stages of life, everyone is deeply committed to getting the job done right and facing challenges head-on. When it comes to difficulties, we say “bring them!”