An overview of six technical schools that offer training in biomedical equipment technology.

 Last month, we provided a list of schools that offer either cooperative or internship programs for biomedical equipment technology training. Program coordinators of several of these schools talked to 24×7 about their programs.

Cincinnati State Technical and Community College
Steven J. Yelton, PE, is the chairman, and Sue Dolan is cooperative education coordinator of the biomedical equipment and information systems technology major of the electronics engineering technology program at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College in Cincinnati, Ohio. They tell 24×7 that the need for a BMET graduate who is well versed in information technology—including computer hardware and software, computer networking, and applications—in addition to the traditional electronics and biomedical instrumentation topics has led the college to make significant changes in program over the past few years

“The Early fall 2003 term at Cincinnati State represented a doubling of the size of the entering biomedical class," Yelton and Dolan say. “We expect 25 to 30 entering students versus the traditional 12 to 15. Changes were made in the curriculum, course content, and even the name of the program to better reflect what was actually being taught in the course of study.

IUPUI’s Bob Pennington (left) instructs Eric Shelton on the intricacies of a patient monitor.

IUPUI student Holly Curtis familiarizes herself with a noninvasive blood pressure monitor.

David Jordan (left) and Eric Shelton of IUPUI repair a dialysis machine.

“The program consists of 10 terms, alternating five full-time school terms and five full-time work terms. This is a 2-year program with five terms per year. The student enters a cooperative education (co-op) position, usually in a hospital, after completing just one 10-week term of school. The co-op positions are paid positions and are generally 40 hours per week. The Cincinnati State program is unique in that it consists of 120 quarter hours, and, upon completion of the program, the student will have completed 1 year of full-time related biomedical employment. Cincinnati State starts two classes each year, one in early fall and one in late fall. This sets up an alternating scenario that allows two students to share one co-op position and one slot in school. While one student is in school, the other is working."

Spokane Community College
Chris Coelho, chair of the electronics department at Spokane Community College (SCC) in Spokane, Wash, says that SCC also offers an internship program.”Our students attend a summer clinical rotation in one of the hospitals for 8 weeks. Currently, 51 students, both upper and lower level, are enrolled in the program. We here at SCC [recommend that students obtain] two associate degrees if enrolled in the biomed program: a degree in computer and data processing and a biomedical degree. In general, the biomedical students take five quarters of electronics and then take biomed courses as upper classmen.

“This recommendation is based on advice from our advisory board and the hospitals that we serve. In general, besides networking all departments, hospitals are converting to filmless x-ray technology, and biomedical techs with computer and biomedical degrees are highly sought. The pay is about $10,000 per year more for biomeds with both skills. Obviously, the extra year of school pays its way throughout a tech’s career, and about half our students are in the two-degree program."

Schoolcraft College
Located in Livonia Mich, Schoolcraft College developed its engineering BMET program in 1972, according to Chris Peters, CBET, faculty member and coordinator of the program. “It was the first of its kind in Michigan and the fourth such program in the country," he tells 24×7. “The program has graduated over 250 students and has a 100% placement rate. Currently, 41 students are enrolled. Courses are divided into general education (13 hours), electronics (37 hours) and biomedical technology categories (17 hours) for a total of 67 credit hours. Students must complete two 15-week internships in a hospital or manufacturing setting. Our internship locations include the University of Michigan Health System and William Beaumont and Providence Hospitals. Students also meet with the BMET coordinator throughout the program. After graduation, students can earn a post-associate certificate by completing laser and networking courses totaling 15 credit hours. Schoolcraft College offers a refresher course for BMETs interested in certification.”

Indiana University–Purdue University at Indianapolis
Barbara Christe, MS, director of the BMET program at Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) tells 24×7, “IUPUI offers an associate in science degree in BMET and a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering technology with a specialty in BMET. The BS degree is currently ABET-accredited and the AS degree will be evaluated in 2006. Our associate degree program currently has approximately 50 students. In addition to the ABET-level electrical engineering technology coursework, hands-on activities are held in Indiana University Hospital, which is located on the campus. Several BMET courses are taught by practicing clinical engineers who bring real-world experience as well as up-to-date technology to the classroom. Students participate in a one-semester, 180-hour-minimum internship at local hospitals (there are approximately 11 in the area, including the first all-digital Indiana Heart Hospital). Also, Indianapolis is home to the headquarters of Eli Lilly Pharmaceuticals and Roche Diagnostics, both of which offer students more specialized, corporate opportunities.

“In addition to traditional degrees…IUPUI offers a web-based certificate in clinical laboratory equipment technology. Students located throughout the country earn Purdue University credit without visiting Indianapolis. Currently, approximately 100 people participate in this program," Christe notes.

She adds, “IUPUI is proud to be a leader in distance education and offers a total of seven courses using the Internet to enhance the careers of working BMETs who have no access to a traditional classroom. We have students from many states, including Alaska and Hawaii. To meet a significant demand, we hope to offer an online degree program in the future."

 Caldwell Community College; Hudson, NC

Caldwell Community College
John Neblitt, CBET, BMET, program director, tells us that the biomedical equipment technology curriculum at Caldwell Community College in Hudson, NC, prepares individuals to install, operate, troubleshoot, and repair sophisticated devices and instrumentation used in the health care delivery system.

“Emphasis is placed on preventive and safety inspections to ensure biomedical equipment meets local and national safety standards," he says. “Course work provides a strong foundation in mathematics, physics, electronics, anatomy, physiology, and troubleshooting techniques. People skills are very important, as is the ability to communicate both in writing and orally. Here at Caldwell Community College, we believe biomedical equipment technicians are problem solvers. Being able to solve health care providers’ equipment problems is strongly emphasized."

The program at Caldwell has a 320-hour internship program in which students get hands-on training at local hospitals such as Carolina’s Medical Center in Charlotte, Wake Forest University, Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, Catawba Regional Medical Center and Frye Regional Medical Center, both in Hickory, and several other local facilities. Caldwell Community College also participates in level-1 x-ray training at DITEC in Solon, Ohio. Second-year students in the BMET program also attend the North Carolina Biomedical Association’s annual symposium and vendor show.

“This is a great learning experience for the students, as they are able to see the newest technology in the biomedical field and attend classes that will help them with their entry level knowledge and skills," Neblitt says.

 Chattahoochee Technical College; Marietta, Ga

Chattahoochee Technical College
The biomedical engineering technology program at Chattahoochee Technical College in Marietta, Ga, was established in 1993 after requests from local hospitals. The program is a planned sequence of carefully developed college-level courses designed to prepare students to work in the field of biomedical engineering technology, says Mike O’Rear, PE, lead instructor of the program.

“The program emphasizes the application of scientific, mathematical, and engineering knowledge and methods—combined with technical skills—in support of engineering activities. Program graduates receive an electronics and computer engineering technology associate of applied technology degree, with a concentration in biomedical engineering technology, which qualifies them as engineering technicians.

“In addition," O’Rear says, “program graduates are to be competent in the general areas of humanities or fine arts, social or behavioral sciences, and natural sciences or mathematics, as well as in computer networking and repair."

This means students must complete not only technical courses but also courses such as English composition, psychology and economics. The program includes two internships in local hospitals, such as WellStar Health Systems, Emory Health System, Grady Hospital, Childrens Health Care of Atlanta, Northside Hospital, and Crawford Long Hospital. Beginning with the fall quarter, a cooperative component will be added. The internship consists of 8 hours a day, 2 days a week, for 10 weeks for two quarters. Students in the co-op program are paid for 40 hours per week for two quarters.

"The program has been well received by the local hospitals and has grown to a total of more than 100 students in all phases of the program," says O’Rear.

He tells 24×7, “Chattahoochee Technical College is the fasting growing technical college in the country. A $28 million expansion is currently underway and continued growth is expected. The college is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and by the Technology Accreditation Commission for the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology."

24×7 thanks Steven Yelton, Sue Dolan, Chris Coelho, Chris Peters, Barbara Christe, John Neblitt, and Mike O’Rear for their contributions to this article.