One of our more rewarding programs at Miami Children’s Hospital involved working with biomedical engineering students at the University of Miami. We did not offer them a conventional internship program but we welcomed the students to come to us for assistance and ideas for their senior design projects. The senior projects were a requirement students had to fulfill in order to qualify for their baccalaureate degrees. Since we usually had more design or research projects than we could handle, we welcomed the outside assistance that they could provide. An added benefit to us was that students had access to biomedical engineering faculty members who could assist them with their designs. This enabled us to give them projects that were well beyond our design capability.
An example of the kind of project we assigned to engineering students was to study the resolution of flow of our syringe pumps at flow rates below .1 ml/hour. Also we asked them to show the difference in resolution between various syringe sizes. This study had been requested by the medical director of our Cardiac Surgical ICU. He had been having trouble controlling the blood pressure of his smallest patients and we suspected that the difficulty was caused by poor syringe pump flow resolution at very low flow rates. We wanted the study to demonstrate to our pharmacists the need to dispense some medications in smaller syringes. The Chief of Pharmacy was arguing that she preferred to use larger syringes because it minimized the number of re-fills and therefore reduced the workload on her already overworked pharmacists. Armed with the hard data generated by the study we were able to get the pharmacy to change. Although the study was not beyond the scope of our department, our measuring equipment lacked the necessary accuracy. We knew that one of the many laboratories at the University would have the proper equipment.
Another project was to design a timing circuit and valve network that could be attached to a ventilator to assist in clearing carbon dioxide during intratracheal ventilation. The circuit design and associated research were well beyond the capabilities of our department, but we knew that the University of Miami students would have access to faculty members with doctorate level degrees in electronics and biomedical engineering who could assist with the design.
This program began because the students started coming to us and we saw an opportunity to help them while also completing projects that we could not handle. It turned out to be very rewarding because it not only gave us the opportunity to help young people who were eager to enter the field, but it also strengthened relations with our medical nursing and research teams. If you have projects that you are unable to complete, you might consider starting this type of program with the school of engineering at your local university. The students would enjoy the opportunity to work on the types of real world problems that you encounter daily while you improve your standing with the medical staff.
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