“If you find a job you love, you will never work a day in your life.”
This is a quote that I have thought about since I heard it for the first time from a ninth-grade English teacher. For the longest time, I never understood what it meant. How could I possibly never work a day in my life in a world like today and love it?
I eventually found that light—one that ignited the fire and passion in my soul—that I had heard about but never experienced. It came to me in 2014, at the beginning of a long journey to where I am today.
At that time, I was just getting by waiting tables at two different restaurants and working towards getting my bachelor’s in education. Then, I received a phone call that caused my whole world to come to a halt—someone very close to me was in the intensive care unit (ICU) due to a brain aneurism. I was told that I should come say my goodbyes.
I’ll never forget that ICU. They had him on what they called a “rotating coffin” bed. He was face down with wires and tubes coming out from all directions. I was scared and heartbroken. I stayed with him during a grueling four-month recovery, and he defied the impossible to walk out of the hospital on his own. That experience inspired me to want to do great things, too.
I realized that I wanted to take care of people who were too sick or too injured to take care of themselves. I wanted to be there for people in their most vulnerable state where embarrassment didn’t even begin to describe how they felt. I wanted to be a part of everyone’s recovery story.
I enrolled in a certified nurse’s assistant program and became a patient care technician. Then, I enrolled in nursing school. To put myself through nursing school, I enlisted in the Army because, at the time, they were offering the GI Bill and a healthy enlistment bonus. I intended to enlist as a medic, but it turned out that the medic role wasn’t available. So, I asked what they had in the medical field. That turned out to be 68A—biomedical equipment technician. I signed up and, at 27, went off to bootcamp and then to biomed school.
Little did I know that my whole perspective on life and the endless possibilities of being “all that I can be” in the Army was going to change my world. Thanks to the Army, I attended one of the finest BMET schools there is. But it wasn’t an easy path.
I remember sitting down at my desk in course one. I opened my book to the first page, and I remember thinking, “What have I gotten myself into? I can’t do this. I will never understand resistors and the color bands on them. Way to go, Ang, you got yourself into a doozy this time.”
After talking myself down, I changed my perspective. I thought, “I’m here for a reason, so why not make the best of it and enter into this adventure with an open mind.” When I did that, I flew through the months after. I took my healthcare “sick patient” mentality and applied it to the medical equipment. The IV pump was sick and not operating correctly, so I needed to troubleshoot it and analyze the symptoms so I could diagnose my “patient” and get him the fix that he needed to recover.
Sometimes, my fellow BMETs would laugh at me. But I was taking something I had passion for in a previous life and applying it to my newfound love in the biomedical equipment world. The medical devices became my patients, and my job was not complete until I had them in recovery.
In 2016, I graduated and entered the civilian world again. Only now, I no longer wanted to be a nurse. I knew that I wanted to work on equipment instead. I landed my first biomed job at a hospital, with a manager and company that gave me the confidence that I needed to excel.
I remember having the 90-day review with my manager at the time, and she asked the obligatory question, “Angie, where do you see yourself in five years?”
“I see myself sitting in your chair leading the clinical engineering department into the future of the always changing medical industry,” I responded.
She sat back, smiled, and told me she could see that leader in me. Throughout the two years after that review, she gave me opportunities to show off my talents of being a leader and gave me opportunities to share my thoughts and give my input. I took on more equipment, I was given more leadership tasks, and I worked my way up from a BMET I to the clinical engineering director for the hospital.
It was a hard path to get here, but now I get to ask my employees “Where do you see yourself in five years?” If any of them respond with, “being the clinical engineering manager of the hospital,” I would smile and say, “What goes around comes around—and challenge accepted!”
I love my job, what I do, and who I work for. It took me a long time to understand what my English teacher was talking about all those years ago. I don’t even feel like I’ve been working for the past three years. I went from taking care of loved ones, to taking care of medical equipment needed to care for those love ones, to now I manage the department that takes care of those devices that takes care of loved ones.
This path has taken passion, drive, and hard work, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Mahatma Gandhi wrote, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I feel empowered to be those changes that I want to see, and my hope is that I lead and empower my staff to do the same. I go home at the end of the day feeling blessed to be able to love what I do, and never work a day in my life.
This has been the most rewarding career so far and I cannot wait to see where the path leads from here.
Angela Ferguson-Bennett is director of clinical engineering at TriMedX, Ascension Borgess Hospital.