Clinical engineers (CEs) and biomedical equipment technicians (BMETs) are not the same, though they are two sides of the same coin. It is important for healthcare delivery organizations to understand the difference between these professions. Even though we work in the same department, the nature of the work we do is different—yet interrelated.
For the smooth running of the CE department, it needs visionary leaders and a dedicated team of CEs and BMETs to translate that vision into applied work. In my experience, BMETs are part of the operations team and mainly take care of day-to-day medical equipment maintenance. CEs reside within the management team, working to manage the technology.
As CEs, we work closely with the operations team (the operations manager and BMETs). Most of a CE’s work impacts that of BMETs, including evaluating service contracts, reviewing and developing the medical equipment maintenance program, medical device incident investigation, follow-up work on medical device recalls, equipment planning and installation, and so on.
I have observed that many CE departments will have BMETs and managers or directors but no CEs. This structure makes me wonder: Who does the work of CEs in such departments, and how is the balance between CEs and BMETs kept? I am not saying that one is better than the other. But I do believe that to be a successful CE department, it is important for leaders to ensure that there is a balance between the CE and the BMET teams—the engineering and the operations.
With this understanding, I have a question for the healthcare technology management community. Have we established any benchmark of how many CEs are required in small, medium, or large hospitals? I understand that providing the required human resource is a challenge. By establishing the benchmark we can help the CE leadership team to maintain the balance between the CEs and BMETs.
Avinash Konkani, Ph.D., is senior clinical engineer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. He is a member of AAMI’s Technology Management Council and the BI&T Editorial Board.