Bialystok is a long way from Amarillo, Texas. Bialystok is the largest city in northeastern Poland and was rebuilt and restored after the war. It is a hub for manufacturing and the Biala River is a central element of the city. Much of the area is forested and winters there can be very cold.
The central European country is a world away from the Lone Star State. The winters aren’t as cold in the city of Amarillo, best known as the “Yellow Rose of Texas.” It is also known for the Cadillac Ranch and its Spanish Revival buildings.
One person who knows each of these places very well is Maggie Olszynska, a biomedical engineer in the biomed department at BSA Health System in Amarillo. Olszynska grew up in Bialystok, but her road to becoming a biomed sounds much like many of her American-born counterparts.
“I have always liked taking stuff apart and putting them back together. Also, I was always interested in science (biology, chemistry and physics). When it was time to pick a college and decide what I wanted to do, I had a hard time picking between medicine and robotics,” Olszynska remembers.
She says that during a college expo at her high school, she learned about biomedical engineering; which was a perfect combination of medicine and robotics.
“Learning very detailed human anatomy about how we move, how our body works and then learning how we can get the same results by creating artificial ‘replacement parts’ using different materials, mechanics, robotics is very interesting,” she says.
“I’m from Poland, so I went to college there and finished biomedical engineering with a master’s degree,” Olszynska says.
She says that the program was very detailed; from basic anatomy, mechanics, physics, materials to biomechanics, CAD designing, building medical database, building prosthetics and orthotics and programming.
“I finished a bachelor’s degree with specialization in materials in medicine and a master’s degree with specialization in medical informatics,” she adds.
Olszynska started at BSA Health as a Tech I, and now in her third year with BSA, is a Tech II. She specializes in respiratory equipment and is also a pump team leader.
BSA is Amarillo’s fourth largest employer and offers an extensive hospital system providing clinical excellence to the Texas Panhandle and the tri-state area. The hospital system’s roots go all the back to 1901.
Despite being with her employer for only three years, Olszynska has already been involved in some important projects that go beyond day-to-day maintenance or repair.
She recalls two of those projects; both related and a couple of years apart.
“The first one was two years ago when we purchased 800 new infusion pumps and the second project, we recently finished, was to integrate those pumps with our Epic system,” she says.
“On the first project, my team and I were responsible of checking in pumps and putting them in our system. Working with our IT and ICU medical on configuring pumps to connect to the network and MedNet, as well as testing that connectivity,” Olszynska says.
She says that her team worked with their ICU medical team that was on site to help with configuring all pumps and to coordinate the team to sticker barcodes to each specific serial number of each pump.
She explained that she also helps set up classrooms with pumps for education prior to the go-live and coordinated teams on swapping old infusion pumps with new ones. This involved checking out old infusion pumps; retiring them from the system and preparing them for shipping.
Olszynska says that during the integration project, she had to pull some pumps out of service and point them to a test server and later on to a training server. She also had to troubleshoot connectivity of some pumps that were not connecting to the network.
“After go-live, I had to troubleshoot and reconfigure some pumps so they would talk to Epic. I also had to coordinate with [the] pharmacy on drug library updates and verify pumps were receiving and installing updates,” Olszynska says.
Another important project, that Olszynska performed with a colleague, was to help clinicians during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and keep them safe.
They were able to move the stands for their Hamilton ventilators’ monitors outside of the COVID-19 patient rooms.
“I did that with my coworker, Robbie Norman, to keep our nurses and respiratory techs safe and lower the usage on PPE,” she says.
For her efforts, she was recognized with the “Employee of the Month” award in her department after her very first month of employment at BSA.
“It wasn’t easy for me to find a job, because of my master’s, everyone thought I’m over-qualified and at the same time I didn’t have any experience in biomed, so I wasn’t good enough. My boss was the only person that gave me a chance and hired me. I’m very grateful for this job. I love working here,” Olszynska says.
When not engaged in biomed tasks and projects, Olszynska has some relaxing hobbies for her time away from work.
“I like crafting; crocheting, knitting, cross stitch, making jewelry and decoupage,” she says.
Bialystok, Poland and Amarillo, Texas are not disconnected for Olszynska. They are both home now. Her journey from Central Europe to the Texas panhandle has enriched her biomed team and brought a new perspective with it.
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