Tag Archives: biomed

Collaborative Care in Hospital Environments

For those of us in industry, it’s not a huge shock to see the latest news on Fierce Health Care. “Hospital CEOs embrace team-based care[sic]”. We’ve been realizing for a long time now that patient care is a group effort. Also considering that patient scores and reviews are important to our industry (We’re a service, and do well to remember that), everyone needs to be on board and on the same page. As quoted from the article:

“The industry is shifting to collaborative care with physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other staff teaming up to provide better health care. The trend is catching on in the C-suite, as well, reported Hospital & Health Networks Daily, as more hospital CEOs become team players, sharing the responsibility of delivering high-quality care at lower costs.”

One of the major challenges of working in the hospital environment is that in many ways, it’s like a city in operation. For example, your biomedical tech staff may work for the health network that owns the hospital, the electrical engineers are contracted through an outside company, the management of housekeeping and of facilities services are a third company, while the house keepers and the regular maintenance staff are hospital employees. Meanwhile the doctors and nurses may or may not work for the hospital, a medical partnership, or themselves. Laundry and food services also are usually contracted.

This creates numerous different points of view and a multitude of priorities that can, at times, conflict. Communication becomes difficult between all these entities and going up the ladder to talk to someone can be a pain of professional discourse. This can be problematic when our bottom line is, and always WILL BE, our patients. To have the CEOs directly involved with patient care erases some of these issues as the people who ultimately make a choice are now directly invested and involved. Once you are invested, you can’t ignore it. It stops being something you know of that inconveniences you and starts becoming something that directly reflects upon you.

I hope that this trend continues, because it’s something that can only make work-flow and patient satisfaction better. Yes, this makes a larger workload for CEOs, however, when you work in the medical field you have to realize and dedicate yourself to the knowledge that you will not be working 9-5 Monday through Friday.


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The Engineer’s College Primer Part One: How to pay

A lot of students enter the engineering academic world and do not realize what their degree is actually prepping them for, what jobs they can get (or even what jobs they WANT), or basically anything outside of they want the prestige that comes with “being an engineer”.

A huge problem that new engineering students have is that they smile wistfully and go “I’m going to be in RESEARCH! 😀 :D” without knowing what the hell they will be researching or what to specialize in. You need to be aware of what you’re going to school for. Again, just to say “I’m an Engineer” is really not a good reason to half kill yourself. It smacks of caring so much about your image that you’re willing to pay 40,000+ for the label “Engineer”.

That’s not to say that there is anything wrong with knowledge for knowledge’s sake. I have two degrees, one in English Literature and the other in Biomedical Engineering Technologies. I wasn’t aware of the costs, or how to pay them back when I was getting that first degree in English Lit. I don’t regret it, but I am paying for it in that I was far too poor to afford school out of pocket. That’s part of the reason that I want to be as helpful as possible to new students, because there are costs involved in college and you will have to pay them one way or another.

Helpful Tip: Expect about 35-40k a year as introductory income with engineering in the midwestern United States (this is based on hiring info in 2011). This will change due to COST OF LIVING. (up to 60k for parts of the west coast of the United States, for example) Let me repeat. 60k in certain parts of the west coast is equivalent to 35-40k in the midwest. YOU ARE NOT GOING TO HAVE A “better” LIFESTYLE. PLEASE DO NOT PRETEND THAT YOU WILL. However, if you’re not stupid with your money, the amount needed to pay back even 50k or so in student loans will not put you under and make you live in a cardboard box. It’s less than the average car payment in this country.

The point I’m trying to make is that student loans/scholarships are pretty much necessity in the United States these days. The age where someone could work a part-time job and pay for school are gone. Unless you are wealthy, you will need student loans/scholarship funds to finish traditional university.

College costs have gone up about 480% since 1970. While the wages have gone up, cost of living has risen so that people in the United States are actually making LESS than they were in 1970 due to inflation. (Sources 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 Just in case your parents want to argue the point) If you’re not comfortable with student loan debt, there are other options for you. They all, however, take a lot of work and dedication. But that’s something you’ll need to get an undergrad in engineering anyway!

Mythbuster 1: Scholarships are available for EVERYONE. And I mean that ~~EVERYONE~~. Fastweb is a great resource. This search engine kicks out scholarships based on the criteria you enter. IT IS A MYTH THAT WHITE MALES CANNOT GET SCHOLARSHIPS. AGAIN I REPEAT IT IS A MYTH THAT WHITE MEN CANNOT GET SCHOLARSHIPS. EVERYONE CAN GET A SCHOLARSHIP. There is no one sitting around handing out scholarship funds, however. You have to fill certain qualifications to earn them. Filling out a profile on sites like Fastweb allow you to pick and choose from scholarships that you meet qualifications to find. Again, you will have to do a lot of work to get these funds and there is no guarantee, however, you can use all the help you can get.

Mythbuster 2: You can use scholarships/loans for ALL OF YOUR EXPENSES. There is nothing anywhere that states you may only use the loans or scholarships for courses. You do not have to come out of pocket for food and housing. What will happen, is that the funds typically are disbursed to your educational institution. Once they pay off your alloted costs, they give the remainder to you in a check. This check should go in the bank and then be used to pay for food, living expenses, your life.

Mythbuster 3: Life does not end at 25,30,35, or any age. If you cannot get enough funds in scholarships and do not want to take loans, then you must downgrade the number of courses that you take. There’s nothing wrong with being a part-time student. Most people do not graduate in four years anyway. You’re going to run into scheduling snafus in college anyway. If you have to push graduation back a semester, a year, or more than that, you’re not a failure in life and it’s OKAY AND ACCEPTABLE to do these things.

The idea that “it’s too expensive” to get a degree is prevalent these days where everyone is worried about money and landing jobs. However, remember that college is an investment and depending on how you want to invest your time and money it could pay off big in the end. Nothing’s for sure or for certain, but don’t feel like something’s beyond your grasp just because you aren’t born with wealth to fall back on. The next segment is going to discuss programs and the pros and cons of picking a type of school (tech, traditional, commuter, community, or other).

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments.

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So You’re an Engineering Student? What About After School?

I’ve migrated between professions in my adult life to finally come to a place that I consider comfortable. This entry is sort of a helping hand to other people who are entering the technology fields (I’m a biomedical technician, so things will be heavily leaning in that direction, but should be fairly cross discipline)

Join professional societies. Big secret? Hardly anyone likes “mixers”, but networking is an important aspect of the science community and an excellent way to put yourself ahead of the competition. There will be competition; don’t delude yourself to think that there won’t be. Some of these cost and some are “geared” to certain professions, but that doesn’t stop you from becoming a member.

Also follow the news and blogs. Technologies are fast paced and difficult to keep abreast of when out of school. It’s important that you remain current, I can’t stress that enough. There’s no better way to wow someone during your interview than to be progressive in your knowledge.

IEEE stands for “Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers” and so you may be confused as to why I am a member. IEEE sets standards for electrical components in all equipment. It’s important to keep abreast of new tech and what is coming out so that you will be current with trends. As a professional, even if you’re not “that sort of engineer” you will find a lot here that is relevant to your interests.

IEEE also has clout. It’s the single largest professional association for engineers in the world. As such its members enjoy discounts, special training courses, and a job board that is available to members only.

Due to its size, IEEE is not free. It costs. However the student memberships are decently priced.

2) GMI
Global Medical Imaging is a biomedical group that provides a variety of support and services to its members. It also sports a blog by Patrick K. Lynch, a long standing member of most of the professional organizations in the United States.

The blog is helpful to people who are new to the biomedical world and want to get an understanding of what’s going on. They also host small conferences that are good places for free refresher courses and meeting people who are in your industry.

3) Your region’s Engineering Association.
I’m a member of OCEA (Central Ohio Clinical Engineering Association). Being a member gives me news letters and focus groups, including the ability to go to conferences. While the topics can be dry, it’s always useful information and a good chance to meet people with experience. The best way to find one would be to google your “[My Area][My Major] Association”.

4) Biomedtalk
This is a forum that’s full of professionals who discuss a wide variety of topics. The forum looks a bit cluttered, and is not as pretty as many of the younger generation would be used to, but don’t sell it short. It’s a good place to get knowledge, ask questions, and acclimate yourself to a variety of people. Despite the sense that as technologists we don’t people very well, it’s important to discuss and be able to work with a wide range of people.

5) Technation
This is a favorite place of mine to poke at. There are a TON of articles, writers, professors (My own Purdue has a spotlight right now), and help. You can listen to Tech Nation on NPR as well, but I would suggest poking around the site and soaking up what it has to offer. I’ve found a lot of good reading on here, and a lot of things to research on my own.

6) ECRI institute
ECRI is an independent, nonprofit organization that researches the best approaches to improving the safety, quality, and cost-effectiveness of patient care. Patient handling and care is paramount in the biomedical world and it’s a good place to probe around. Again they have incentives for being a member, and a ton of information. Their newsletters are free and usually very up to date.

The most important thing to remember about being in technology is that we don’t get to stop learning. The information that we need is always updating and changing and it’s important to continue to update yourself so that you remain valuable to your industry and competative.

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Science, in and of itself is dear to me. I love math, and I’ve always been a good troubleshooter. But this question really made me stop and think because at about the same age I finally got it beaten into me that “math is for boys” and “talking is for girls”. A lot of times I would have a math teacher ignore me, or flat out tell me no, when I felt very right. I remember, to this day over 15 years later, my last high school math class. I had excellent scores, and in a lecture I found an alternate way of doing a problem. When I asked the teacher about it, he told me that it wouldn’t work. I asked him to prove it to me, and he told me that I needed to be quiet.

That day I could have registered for an advanced math course. I didn’t.

I stopped caring about science because I wasn’t valued by it. This wasn’t simply one time, this was constant. From a misogynistic father to people assuming something would be too hard for me, I was done with it. I never got funny looks for reading a book. I never was told that I was wrong for thinking about writing. But if I thought about mathematics? The thing is that I don’t feel that these adults in my life meant to crush something I actually have an aptitude for. I think that their own attitudes prevailed. Their own stresses caused them to rebuff the annoying student (I was mouthy, loud, brash, your basic normal teenager). Their own hardships or pressures caused them to subtly shape me into someone who left science altogether for many years.

My family is not highly educated. This isn’t to say that my mother didn’t value educating me. She simply didn’t have time or the ability herself. You can’t lead the way when the path isn’t known to you.

Like this little girl, I know I had figures that supported my love of math, but they were by far overshadowed by “you’re not good enough” or by indifference. There are thousands of articles out there discussing this topic, why women stray from the sciences. A quick google search can turn up a multitude of studies on the topic. But it goes to show that research and action are two different things. There are still people out there who want Engineering/Science to be something so lofty that lowly minorities and women cannot reach it. They have this burning urge to be super special snowflakes. If everyone can get an Engineering degree then what good are they? Then they will have to compete.

A strange conversation during my second undergraduate degree started by me complaining that fewer people were enrolling as engineering students. A young man laughed and said “less competition”. Without thinking I blinked and said that he must not be a very good engineer to think like that.  He was, understandably, insulted by the statement. I explained that I had faith in myself and my abilities, why didn’t he? But there’s the rub. As a woman you’re told in this field that if you try hard enough that something good will happen. For many of us “enough” never comes. Even after we’ve surpassed our male counterparts. This is changing. It’s slowly turning into a more even playing field.

But until then, we can’t really ignore it.


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