01 Mar 2012

The Author

John Noblitt
Director of Biomedical Equipment Technology at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in Hudson, N.C.

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The Other Side of the Fence

After being in the business of biomedical equipment now for over 25 years, I tend to be like many of you and just take many aspects of what we do on a day-to-day basis for granted. Aspects of any professional job bring on stressful situations we all must deal with. As a BMET/CE you may be worried about such things as, “Will I reach my 90 percent PM completion rate?” or “How on earth am I going to find these last 14 devices in the next three days?” as you have probably already been searching for them for the last 15 days. In addition, you may be concerned about how you are going to get the three pieces of equipment you have broken down on the bench fixed. Not to mention the phone seems to be blowing up with little things you have to do all day, from emergency repairs to calling a parts supplier to inquire why your parts have not arrived.

My day-to-day worries are a little different here at the college. Things like “Has the next semester schedule been submitted? Are all my contracts in place for the internships, which are fast approaching, and what new regulations will the human resources department throw at the students this year? Will my budget cover the costs of supplies this year? Where can I find more medical equipment for the students to work on as lab projects, and how do I get them to use the information they have learned over the last two years? How do I get the student to see the connections between patient monitoring and anatomy and physiology?” These are the things I deal with on a day-to-day basis, just as you deal with the issues in the hospital. However, sometimes life throws you a curve ball and you just wish you could get back to your normal hectic life.

It has been several months now since I found myself on the other side of health care. Not working on equipment or preparing technicians to work on the equipment, but hoping all the technology in health care actually works correctly. No, I have not been sick, but my mother has had a tough time lately.

The Friday I left the NCBA symposium I was driving home from Charlotte and got a call: Mom had broken her hip. Therefore, I changed directions and went to the hospital where she had been admitted. As the experience unfolded, I realized I have a much different perspective than most on the technologies administered to help my mother, or any patient for that matter, from the monitoring system to the patients’ bar-coded bracelets to the diagnostic tools used by the physicians, as well as many of the codes and standards being applied by an accredited health care facility. I felt confident that all the pieces of the puzzle would come together for a great outcome, and I was correct. Surgery went well, Mom was up and walking the next day and was on her way to a rather lengthy recovery including the rehabilitation work she would have to go through. After a week, I came home and resumed my normally hectic life.

Then the second curve ball came. About a month later, I received another call: Mom was in the emergency department and the diagnosis was a perforated bowel. Immediately I knew how serious this was, so it was back to Mom’s house and a terrifying 18 days in ICU. By the time I arrived at the hospital, the surgery had been performed with the surgeon removing 18 inches of bowel and performing the colostomy. I will never forget the surgeon telling my brother and I that the surgery went well, but at the time of surgery she was the sickest patient in the hospital. That’s something you do not want to hear about your mother.

This experience is when I discovered many aspects of healthcare I did not previously know about. Things such as what the nursing staff told me was ICU psychosis, and a PICC line, or peripherally inserted central catheter, and some of the medical concerns about infections from this procedure. When you have a loved one going through such trauma, the stress and anxiety can be overwhelming. This fact brings me back to the beginning of this article.

If you are working in a hospital environment, you must be aware that not only you and your coworkers are under stress – the people you see in the halls and waiting rooms or the cafeteria may be under the most stressful of conditions imaginable. This is a fact I will always stress to my students when they are feeling stressed in their new careers. I must say, I was an emotional wreck and just now seem to be getting my life back together, as Mom is home and doing very well. In no small part, these wonderful outcomes are due to the dedicated staff of nurses, physicians, and yes, even the wonderful technicians and engineers that ensure the technologies used in today’s health care are working properly. From the Philips monitoring equipment, to the GE imaging equipment, to the Braun pumps and everything in between I am grateful to each of you for ensuring these technologies do in fact work properly and safely.

Thank you.

John Noblitt No comments