By George Pazak
You know it will be a bad day when HR calls you out of the blue and says, “Your services are no longer needed.” You are stunned, and you try to think what you did to cause this sudden unexpected exit. But you don’t have time to dwell on it. You have to make a corrective action plan.
When I found myself in this situation, I shifted my focus back to my education and the things I had learned at Purdue University in internship programs there. I started redefining my resume and highlighting those areas in which I had specialized education. I updated areas of general biomedical knowledge and specifics such as radiology/ultrasound or surgery. It is a major change to shift from being a field service engineer working on specific product lines to an in-house biomed who covers various products and vendors.
After several interviews, my new employer, an independent service organization, saw the benefits of my qualifications and made the match.
Learn to Adapt
There were several areas that I needed to adapt to. The biggest challenge was focusing on patient safety and reliability of all types of medical equipment. I now have to look not just at the product line. I am now looking out for the hospital itself.
Soft skills are really critical when dealing with different departments, shifts, and personnel turnover. A perfect example is when a piece of equipment needs repair and a part has to be ordered. Ideally, the day shift is informed and sends follow-up emails. Unfortunately, I’ve had an experience where the first shift did not pass that information on. In turn, several work orders were generated for the same piece of equipment needing service. Even the house manager gets involved and calls the on-call biomed for a status report.
Don’t forget, you are the neophyte in the clinical engineering department for the hospital. So it’s important that your manager designate a good mentor for you. A good mentor wants you to succeed. It makes him or her look good, and now you can be trusted to take on other responsibilities. I was very lucky to have several great mentors who wanted me to succeed and passed on their knowledge about the various types of equipment and the personnel in charge of each department.
It is critical to listen and take notes from your senior biomed and mentors in the department. This is especially important when working on other vendors’ equipment you don’t have experience with. You will be inundated with so many new things. Start writing these notes down or document them in your smart phone. It will help you to recall that information, instead of needing to call the people who taught you or your manager for it.
Draw on Previous Experience
Any previous experience servicing and repairing original equipment manufacturers’ (OEM) equipment becomes invaluable in your new position. You can pass on or teach troubleshooting techniques your former employer implemented on a critical piece of equipment. You can show and explain how ordering the specific critical parts for a repair of down equipment will save time and money. You can make sure the biomedical shop inventory has supporting materials that you need for critical service.
Another example is the process of loading software. A biomed may load software once or twice a year. As a former field service engineer (FSE), you’ll have much more experience doing this and can therefore make the procedure much smoother. When extra rooms were needed in the intensive care unit to admit COVID-19 patients at the hospital where I work, expansion of the current patient monitoring was urgently needed.
Installing additional patient monitoring equipment was routine for this FSE. Within days, additional patient monitoring beds were installed, and configured. You can also use skills developed with your former company through field change orders, safety bulletins, or equipment repaired under extended warranty periods.
You Can Learn New Tricks
One important lesson I learned is that you are never too old to learn something new. Educating yourself is a critical tool in your new toolbox. For example, when I was working on a different manufacturer’s ventilator, I understood the physical properties of what it does and how it functions. But I had to take time to review the service manual in-house, go online, and call the technical support teams for a solution. Using these techniques makes you look like a seasoned veteran when working on other vendors’ ventilators.
Another thing to keep in mind is that hospitals and OEMs have a financial bottom line to maintain. An OEM is always making sure your hospital has the latest new equipment. As a biomed, your advice and opinion can be critical in making purchasing decisions, particularly regarding compatibility with existing equipment. Get the department to obtain additional information or specific data on that piece of equipment. They become involved in the process by inquiring about the current equipment having an end of support or end of life.
Also, make sure the equipment ordered has the necessary accessories at the outset. When items are missing during installation, it can delay a major area opening. Learning how you can best aid in the purchasing process will increase your value to the team. The bottom line: Transitioning to a hospital role after being with a large OEM can be exciting. You just have to you prepare yourself.
George Pazak is currently employed by Crothell Healthcare as a BMET III at Methodist Hospital in Merrillville, Ind. Questions and comments can be directed to 24×7 Magazine chief editor Keri Forsythe-Stephens at firstname.lastname@example.org.