Many HTM professionals have found it to be a rewarding experience by giving of their time and expertise in helping those in developing countries. Other HTM professionals have volunteered at home to help with the repair of equipment being shipped to developing countries.
D. Courtney Nanney, BSBME, CCE, CLSGB, national quality manager of Clinical Engineering, Physical Asset Services for Catholic Health Initiatives is involved in both.
Nanney has been traveling to Nicaragua with the Greater Louisville Medical Society for the past 10 years. He has volunteered at Supplies Over Seas (SOS) on Saturday mornings twice a month over the past decade.
“The Greater Louisville Medical Society (GLMS) Foundation started a medical mission trip to Nicaragua 11 years ago,” he says.
“When they returned, they realized there was a great need for medical equipment repair. They asked the local Louisville hospitals for help. Jewish Hospital asked me if I would be willing to go. I jumped at the opportunity,” Nanney says.
He says that in his first year, he repaired equipment at the Nicaragua Dermatology Hospital.
“I got to see leprosy for the first time. I also worked at the Las Mascota Children’s Hospital,” he says.
During the second year, he found that much of the equipment he repaired the year before was out of service.
“I realized that a once-a-year visit was not going to be very helpful. I started training the local hospital engineers. They are very bright and quick learners,” Nanney says.
“They showed me some creative ways to repair equipment. Parts were hard to find. So we fixed a ventilator with a car horn from a local automotive parts store. I think a ‘honking’ ventilator gets the clinician’s attention better anyway,” he jokes.
“I also worked at two additional hospitals — Berta Calderon Women’s Hospital and Lenin Fonseca Neuro/Ortho Hospital,” Nanney adds.
He says that after several years, he realized he was spending all his time traveling from one hospital to the other.
“I also realized that some hospitals were really good at maintaining their unique devices, but were not as knowledgeable on other devices. I asked if they talked to their counterpart across town that was good with that unit. They answer was ‘no.’ I suggested that we start having annual education seminars, gathering all the local hospital engineers,” Nanney says.
Supplies Over Seas is a not-for-profit organization based in Louisville, Kentucky that “meets critical health care needs in medically impoverished communities around the world by collecting and distributing surplus medical supplies and equipment,” according to its website.
Quoting from the organization’s website, Nanney explains that the organization was “founded in 1993 by Dr. Norton Waterman and the Greater Louisville Medical Society (GLMS). According to Dr. Waterman, ‘perfectly good bandages, cloth operating gowns, towels and sutures were being thrown out. Good instruments were discarded because of recent improvements, regulations or changes in popularity.’ ”
Nanney says that the local hospitals got involved and donated used medical equipment too.
“SOS asked me to come on Saturdays twice a month to check the medical equipment to make sure it was functional and had all the accessories needed before they shipped it to the mission field,” he says.
“I had worked two years at the Gaza Baptist Hospital and Nursing School in the Gaza Strip just after college. I have been on the receiving end of medical equipment that did not work. It is very frustrating since parts availability is very limited,” Nanney says.
“At the same time, the University of Louisville (U of L) had approached me about opportunities for their biomedical engineering students to get some practical experience. I started mentoring students at SOS. They get lots of hands on experience and have been very faithful over the years. The U of L Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) and the Kentucky Association for Medical Instrumentation (KAMI) have been very supportive of SOS and GLMS. We are hoping to send a U of L student with me to Nicaragua next year with some of the SOS medical equipment we checked out,” Nanney adds.
He says that there are lots of opportunities for other HTM professionals to help by donating working medical devices to medical missions along with accessories, spare parts and manuals.
“There are also opportunities to go with medical teams too. You will find that you will probably be one of the most valuable members of the team,” Nanney says.
On the Job
When not doing volunteer work, Nanney’s full-time job is national quality manager for clinical engineering at Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI).
“As a certified clinical engineer (CCE) and Lean Six Sigma green belt, I am responsible for process improvement including the alternate equipment management (AEM) program, recalls, cybersecurity alerts, incident investigations and ‘other duties as assigned,’” he says.
“I am also known as the ‘database janitor,’ since I have to standardize the data in order to perform good analysis. I work closely with IT, risk management, infection prevention and other clinicians to look for ‘best practices’ and ‘close-calls’ to help improve efficiency, effectiveness and patient safety,” Nanney adds.
Nanney highly recommends participating in medical missions which he describes as a “great opportunity to learn from doctors, nurses and fellow professionals in other countries as you work and live with them.”
The beneficiaries of those working medical devices are glad Nanney got involved.
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