Health care workers have been on the front line during the COVID-19 pandemic. While many others have been able to work from home, doctors, nurses, and other health care workers – including those working in healthcare technology management (HTM) – have had to continue on-site work during the pandemic. HTM is not a career that allows one to work from home. Biomeds may not be as visible to patients as doctors and nurses, but they are just as important in keeping the health care system running and in making sure patients get the care that they need. Throughout the pandemic, biomeds and all health care workers have put themselves and their families at risk just by going to work.
I asked four recent graduates of the Biomedical Engineering Technology Program at Penn State New Kensington a few questions about their experiences and insights on working in HTM during the pandemic.
How does working during this pandemic make you feel?
Several people responded that working in a hospital during the pandemic made them feel more appreciated and gave them a greater sense of pride. Jack DelloStritto, a 2017 graduate and currently a Radiology Engineer Tech II at WakeMed Health & Hospitals, said that it has given him a greater sense of appreciation for his department’s work, and that their local community has shown its appreciation through donations including PPE and meals to the department. Abdel Hussein, a 2019 graduate currently working as a Clinical Engineer Generalist I at UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside, adds that it gives him a “sense of pride in being a valuable asset in these unprecedented times. The skywalk from the Hillman Cancer Center is lined with the words ‘Heroes work here.’ Food trucks come outside somedays for lunch and passerbys honk their horn in support. People who see me in scrubs thank me for what I do and nothing is more rewarding than helping the hospital staff to deliver the best quality health care. The appreciation is there and it’s great motivation for us.” On the other hand, Justin Pooley, a 2019 graduate working as a Biomed I at St Luke’s Medical Center in Boise Idaho, said that he doesn’t really feel any different, adding that the reason that patients are in the hospital does not impact how biomeds prioritize the equipment that treats them. Dalynn Park, a 2020 graduate working as a Clinical Engineer Generalist I at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, adds “Though there is some apprehension due to the current situation, I feel safe and well cared for at work.”
A common response was that hospitals have decreased the number of surgeries and other procedures scheduled and limited the number of people in the hospital. Several people mentioned budget limitations, difficulties getting parts and training sessions being postponed because of limits on travel. Hussein added that the pandemic has led to “less equipment to fix in general but high priority equipment in demand and in larger volumes such a powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs), respirators, feeding pumps, telemetry monitors and pulse oximetry, and anything COVID related.” On the other hand, DelloStritto commented, “Honestly, it has been pretty much business as usual.”
Everyone commented that masks are now required in their hospitals, and several people mentioned that employee temperature checks are conducted before each shift. Other precautions include extra cleaning of equipment before servicing it and, when possible, waiting before doing PMs or repairs on equipment that was used in a COVID-19 patient’s room.
Pooley highlighted some of the extra work that has been required of biomeds, such as setting up central monitoring in departments that did not originally have it so that alarms can be heard when room and corridor doors are closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and repairing PARPs. Others discussed how people and departments have come together during this time. DelloStritto commented that they “have been able to assist other departments in many ways (setting up tents, problem solving, etc.). I believe it to be clear that, working together, we are successfully managing our health system during this pandemic, and because of that, we can tackle any obstacle that is to come our way in the future.” Hussein echoed this sentiment, saying “despite all the social distancing, I’ve seen a lot of people come together, work long hours, take extra precautions, and show that they are willing to make sacrifices and put themselves on the front line to help others.” Park adds that, working during COVID-19, “each day brings new, interesting challenges and adventures.”
All of the graduates who answered these questions mentioned some of the challenges that they, their departments and the hospitals have been experiencing during the pandemic. But they also discussed the ways they have risen to these challenges to keep hospitals running and ensure that patients are getting the care that they need. Thanks to them for their honest responses. Also thanks to them and everyone performing essential work during this pandemic!
Joie N. Marhefka, Ph.D., is the biomedical engineering technology program coordinator at Penn State New Kensington. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of TechNation or MD Publishing.
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