Lack of awareness creates demand for biomedical engineering techs

Biomedical engineering technicians are trained to work in hospitals and maintain the myriad equipment used in the business of saving lives. However, when people hear the phrase “biomedical engineering” or “biomedical technology,” the tendency is to think of people doing grant work, researching a new prosthesis or developing new gene-editing techniques. And that misunderstanding is contributing to a gap between those who would fill those roles and the employers who need them.

“There are many people with the skills to do this important job who don’t understand what a biomedical engineering technician does,” says Dan Pack, an associate professor at Cuyahoga Community College. “Hospitals know what they’re looking for, as do third-party employers. And they’ve got more openings for these positions than there are skilled people to fill them.”

Smart Business spoke with Pack about biomedical engineering technology and why employers in this in-demand career field are struggling to keep their talent pipeline filled.

What do biomedical engineering technicians do and where are they most often employed?

Biomedical engineering technicians’ main responsibility is the upkeep and maintenance of medical equipment — for instance, medical equipment commonly found in hospitals. They perform safety checks to make sure everything is safe and operational, and troubleshoot equipment issues.

Through their education and training programs, biomedical engineering technicians are exposed to a lot of hospital equipment to understand how they work and how they affect human bodies. Biomedical engineering technology programs train participants not just on the principles of electronic engineering, but also on biomedical principles — exploring human organs and their functions — and on the biomedical equipment found in hospitals that those in the field will ultimately work with. That equipment could include fetal monitors, infusion pumps, ECGs and EKGs, defibrillators, ventilators, vital sign monitors and more. 

Hospitals often keep biomedical engineering technicians on staff, as do imaging and dialysis companies and third-party companies that work on hospital equipment. 

What opportunities exist for biomedical engineering technicians in Northeast Ohio? 

The demand for biomedical engineering technicians in the region is very strong. Schools that offer the training program are actively marketing to attract more candidates because employers need to fill their talent pipelines. 

Northeast Ohio is fortunate to have many world-class health care facilities, including Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals. Top-quality education and training programs have relationships with these employers and can connect students with valuable internships. In some cases, the hospitals connect with educators in advisory committee meetings, through which these employers help shape the education and training programs. 

What do employers look for in a biomedical engineering technician?

Employers are looking for candidates who have a two-year associate degree in electronic engineering with a concentration in biomedical technology — and there are only a few schools in the area that offer such a program. The concentration in biomedical technology means that the student has been introduced to more than 100 pieces of hospital equipment. Through hands-on practice with different makes and models, they develop a familiarity with the equipment. Biomedical technology students are also introduced to maintenance schedules and manuals for this equipment through their internships, which provide 360 hours of in-the-field training.

Employers are also looking for energetic employees who can work alone and in a team. They also prefer to hire certified biomedical equipment technicians, who have completed education requirements as well as two years of work in the field.

This is an under-recognized career field with a high demand for candidates. Northeast Ohio has many opportunities for qualified individuals who can maintain the critical equipment that hospitals need to perform their lifesaving work.

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