One of the more difficult things to justify in our minds is the career that we have selected,
why clinical engineering? It sure is not the highest paid of the engineering specialties, it requires us to be able to think and act like a mechanical engineer, as we try to jamb more technology in clinical area, also like an industrial engineer when we have to match technology to clinical needs, we have to understand finance as everyone seems to want the best technology but is not willing to pay. Just look at what we have now to what we had 20 years ago and compare the costs, most of us will be surprised that the actual costs of much of the technology has gone way down when inflation is factored in.
As a clinical engineer we have to understand that the users of much of the technology are not tech savvy, don’t understand that the equipment is not meant to be bounced off the floors and walls. It does need to be cleaned especially when the patient’s bodily fluids decorate it, but they will send it down to the shop without cleaning it. Then the clinical people wonder why the infection rates remain high in hospitals.
As a clinical engineer we have to have a working knowledge of structural problems as departments try to cram more equipment into smaller areas which them brings up the problem of ventilation. No one wants to handle that problem until the failures become too much for the medical personnel to handle so they call for the clinical engineer to solve the problems. After we do getting thanks from the department is like pulling teeth.
So why do we stay in this unforgiving, stressful, and underpaid field? Because we are the type of people who like to help others. That’s how we get our satisfaction. A high percentage of us travel around the world on medical missions, often paying costs out of our own pocket. We try to help others around the world answer questions and help patients.
In 1989 a group of clinical engineers met at the AAMI convention to discuss setting up another organization that would be devoted to promoting clinical engineering as a profession. For two years we worked out the details of what and how we wanted to do things and finally in 1991 the ACCE came into existence. In the past 20 years we have had many successes and some not so successful ventures as an organization, we wrote a code of ethics, we started training programs, we brought the CCE exam back from the dead, we have teleconferences, we give out awards but we still have much more to do to be sure that we continuing helping others.
What do we need to do? We need to communicate to others both inside and outside of clinical engineering problems that we find. We need to mentor new people in the profession because we are getting old and will need someone to handle the equipment when we are in that hospital bed. We need to push the government agencies to look at benefits and risks of new devices in a timely fashion so the good technology come out quickly and the bad items never get out of if the do they are not out for long. We need to tell the IT people that interconnecting devices to their systems means that they cannot
change addresses of systems without telling us so no date is lost or procedures stopped.
We need to work with the vendors telling them clearly what is right and wrong with their
products. We need to push the vendors to provide us with current software to test devices in our hospitals. But most of all we need to get involved as much as possible with the planning that goes on in the hospitals. Too many of us have seen a bunch of boxes arrive for incoming inspections that we were never told was coming and that we would have to install the equipment, take out the older equipment, moving that to another floor or department and do it quickly.
Well in 20 years we have made some progress but there sure is sill at lot of progress needed by we have out profession and we are helping others so we can hold our heads high because we truly help others regain their health. Now if they would only pay us a little more.