By Connor Walsh
When looking at the big picture in the world of clinical engineering, it is very overwhelming to think about the extensive work involved in maintaining a hospital’s entire inventory of medical equipment and technology. However, with the right mindset from the get-go, it is very possible to grasp and manage this process over time.
The most important resources that you have as a clinical engineer are your technicians. They are the experts on the equipment and how it operates. It is imperative that you spend time early on building a relationship with them. They are the foundation of any successful clinical engineering department, and ensuring that they receive adequate training goes a long way. Communicate with them, see what concerns or issues they have and create an understanding that they are able to come to you for anything that they may need. Without them, a department cannot function, and showing them respect and generating a healthy working environment facilitates growth within.
Clinical engineering is unique in the fact that many college courses cannot teach you everything you must know to be successful, and grasping this knowledge early in your career is extremely important. Medical devices are continually evolving, and what was once a standalone unit is now an integrated medical system with our hospital medical record. As a result, we as clinical engineers are absorbing more IT responsibilities, and the knowledge of how these types of systems work can go a long way. Use the first year to dive into conferences or training that will help you better understand this side of clinical engineering. Whether it’s a CompTIA certification, a PACS administration course or any of the many other options, understanding a basic knowledge of IT/clinical devices is an excellent idea to pursue in your first year.
Within my first year of clinical engineering at the Veterans Affairs (VA), I have been able to see the tremendous benefits that can come with personal networking. There is no need to re-create the wheel. Reach out to other clinical engineers when you are trying to implement a new process in your facility to see if there might be a similar idea already in place. In addition to the other 151 clinical engineering departments in the VA that we can contact, we have developed a relationship with the clinical engineering staff at the private hospital located near us and also have affiliate agreements in place with local colleges to provide additional opportunities for co-ops, interns and volunteers. Step out of your comfort zone and think outside the box at how and to whom you can develop a connection with. The resources that can be gained by networking with individuals in your field can be very beneficial. It is important to set the groundwork for these relationships in your first year.
Clinical engineering is an exciting, growing field and the opportunities that lie within are vast. Starting your career down the right path can shape the kind of experiences you face, making sure to take advantage of these opportunities early on is essential. Build a relationship with your technicians, pursue various training options and build a network of clinical engineers that you can rely on to help ensure the success of your department. Utilize your first year to its full potential and never lose the ambitious trait that all clinical engineers should have.
Connor Walsh is a supervisory biomedical engineer at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
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