About 15 years ago, when I graduated as a biomedical equipment technician (BMET), it would never have crossed my mind that over the years I would train future generations of biomedical technicians, as I do today. I could not imagine then that I might be the creator of a new associate degree course in biomedical engineering technology for a private institution in Puerto Rico. Nor would I have thought it possible that the same institution where I later graduated would recruit me to teach courses in biomedical technology.
All this serves as an incentive to motivate new students by being able to tell them, “Don’t put limits in relation to what you can achieve.” They must have dreams and aspirations in relation to what they want to be and how they want to perform in the future.
We reach the top by hard work and determination. We might even get to own our own business or start a military career related to this field. There are many alternatives in this amazing field. However, something that caught my attention when working with both public and private sectors was the fact that we could see the pros and cons of each of these, the advantages and disadvantages.
In private institutions we see:
- A greater investment in biomedical equipment;
- A more expensive cost per credit;
- Less incentives and fringe benefits for the faculty;
- Students who are admitted with minimum criteria for admission;
- More practical hands-on training;
- Laboratory and computer simulation and real medical equipment;
- Software with electronic applications for all types of academic reports; and
- Updated curriculum that may include courses that are not common in biomedical technology, such as PLC and robotics.
In public institutions we could find:
- Less investment in biomedical equipment;
- Less expensive credits;
- More incentives and fringe benefits for faculty;
- Students admitted with major criteria for admission;
- More theoretical experience (the practical experience depends on the skill and creativity of the teacher and students to get the necessary resources);
- A laboratory with simulation and real equipment is limited;
- Often academic reports are done manually; and
- The curriculum may be updated but does not include irregular classes, but rather the fundamentals.
After seeing the advantages and disadvantages of each of the educational institutions, we can make some recommendations. For example, in the case of public institutions working with limited funds, donations of equipment from hospitals or private companies that often have dismissed or obsolete technologies can be requested. Of course, for the purpose of repair and seeing the operating principles these are useful, and it is more like a recycling program between health and educational institutions.
Schools can also join efforts with and enter into partnerships between hospitals and universities to provide a training environment that benefits both parties, where there is a lot of practical experience and graduates may be part of the hospital workforce. This has already been done for many years, but today, with all the advanced technologies, it is hard to replicate this in a classroom setting. Examples include using telemetry systems and sharing information from one place to another, as well as videoconferencing, interactive education, etc.
We, as teachers and mentors of this new generation of technological people, have a great challenge every day. Facilitating a learning environment that is dynamic is not an easy task, as they reach the classroom with all sorts of technology from iPods, laptops, and cell phones so that we fight against all those distractions. You compete against search engines like Google. If, for example, you do not have an answer, they will seek it in Google and will give you the response. Of course, in that aspect we have to be flexible and provide the ways to integrate technology with education. Sometimes we use YouTube videos to teach them about the operation and function of biomedical equipment. We are gradually integrating technology into education, so that the educational environment is as close as possible to the workplace.
I have seen both sides of the coin, working for educational institutions both public and private, and have gained important insights into the advantages and disadvantages of each. Also, through my experiences in the industry since becoming a BMET and owning my own business, it makes it easy for me to understand, motivate, and mentor the next generation of biomedical technicians that are emerging in Puerto Rico.
Joel Vega, BBA, works as a professor of a 2-year biomedical engineering technology program at the Technological Institute of Puerto Rico San Juan campus. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and an associate’s degree in biomedical engineering technology. He is president and founder of Biomedtech of PR and the cofounder of the Puerto Rico Biomedical Association Inc. For more information, contact .
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