Top Tips for Supporting Your BMET Workforce
Biomedical equipment technicians have one of the most demanding–and important–roles in hospital care. Every day, clinicians and patients depend on hospital BMETs to keep mission-critical medical equipment performing with optimal safety and functionality. Collectively, US hospitals own 10-15 million medical devices, averaging 10-15 connected devices per bed, and a biomed tech is responsible for virtually every single one of those machines.
Repairing devices that have failed on the floor is one of the primary duties of in-house BMETs, but this is just one aspect of the job. BMETs must conduct regular preventive maintenance to discover and fix equipment issues before they cause problems. They're also responsible for ongoing projects, including equipment installation and technology upgrades. And BMETs execute process improvement strategies, such as retraining nurses and other clinicians and improving workflows that increase the safe operation of infusion pumps and other essential medical devices.
All those responsibilities keep BMETs very busy, so it's not surprising that issues arise. But what are the biggest challenges BMETs encounter on the job?
High-stakes priorities and the struggle for time
"Time management is really at the top of the list," says Alero Olomajeye, a level III BMET who worked in a hospital before joining the team at Elite Biomedical Solutions. "There's always someone who wants something, and they want it now. They want it yesterday, because they are dealing with patients—they're dealing with people whose lives are on the line, and it's not something you can put off."
The growing BMET shortage has intensified the pressure on BMETs currently working in hospitals; BMETs on staff must handle a significant workload. Turning repairs around quickly is critical, yet the margin for error is extremely tight when working on medical devices. The result is that BMETs skip breaks or meals or put in extensive overtime hours to give each repair the time it deserves.
Because so many BMETs demonstrate this level of commitment, clinical engineering departments have tended to develop a culture that expects techs to sacrifice their own needs constantly to keep equipment running. The result is a "rip-and-run" shop culture, which focuses on repair quantity over quality—and often over the wellbeing of dedicated BMETs.
Large health systems can usually keep clinical engineering software, diagnostics, laptops, and other tools up to date. In smaller organizations, however, older technology may interfere with BMET efficiency. Filling in PM forms by hand, waiting for a slow laptop, or dealing with the limitations of an outdated simulator can add up to hours that a BMET isn't spending on essential duties. The same goes for older inventory systems, which can use up to 13.67 BMET labor hours per month on inventory maintenance.
Key approaches for supporting BMETs in the workplace
Troubleshooting biomedical equipment requires focus, creative thinking, and the ability to assess the situation from multiple perspectives. For BMETs to work at the top of their game, they need to know they're valued and feel secure. Hospital admins and HTM managers can do this in the following ways:
Create a supportive culture
According to Olomajeye, the most crucial step administrators can take is to create a safe, supportive culture for BMET staff. In this environment, techs feel comfortable asking for help. This encourages teamwork that relieves stress for the individual employee and reduces the chance of errors that could lead to device failure during deployment.
Additionally, BMETs should feel comfortable:
- Asking for extra time to complete a difficult job
- Requesting better instruments and tools
- Using their accrued PTO
- Asking for scheduling flexibility
- Requesting emotional support services
Flexible shift times help workers accommodate childcare, eldercare, and other family needs. It's challenging to do one's best work when these concerns are always on your mind. And like clinicians, BMETs can also experience work-related burnout and other stressors that impact mood and mental wellness.
Much research has shown that positive work environments have beneficial effects on employees. According to a 2022 study, "the workplace environment can improve the achievement-striving ability of the employees, and employees tend to bounce back in difficult situations."
Invest in BMET training
Cross-training is a way admins can optimize BMET resources. Cross-training provides backup for busier, more experienced techs with expertise in a particular set of equipment so that the senior techs can rely on trained colleagues for help with heavy workloads or coverage if they need to take a sick day or use vacation time.
In general, providing BMETs with any advanced training offers a range of benefits, including:
- Increased staff knowledge and skills
- Better efficiency
- Higher quality repairs
- More effective PM
Senior-level BMETs can provide in-house training. Offsite programs conducted by OEMs or repair specialists can take BMET education to the next level.
Budget constraints can discourage management from spending money on upgrading or replacing technician instruments. But the reality is that failing to invest in better tools and equipment can contribute to increased costs in lots of little ways and some more significant ways.
For example, replacing an older simulator with a new one could quickly improve BMET efficiency by up to 50%. Likewise, transitioning to an advanced inventory management system can streamline BMET workloads while improving PM schedules, increasing compliance, and improving response to device recalls.
Collect meaningful data
"In this field, data matters," says Olomajeye. "The more detailed you make your data, the more of a case you can make." Admins should collect as much data as possible regarding work hours, labor time, repair times, time spent using specific equipment, and time BMETs spend doing "non-essential" tasks.
Detailed, specific data can back up requests to upper management for more staff, new gear, or BMET training.
Supporting BMETs makes financial sense
BMETs are highly skilled technicians whose work directly affects medical equipment costs. Their work extends device lifespans and boosts ROI. Biomed techs help healthcare organizations avoid costs associated with device failure and adverse patient events. By reducing risk and keeping hospital devices on the floor, BMETs enhance patient outcomes. Hospitals, in the business of patient-centered care, can't afford to overlook the contributions–and needs–of their BMET workforce.
The experienced BMETs at Elite Biomedical Solutions provide high-quality equipment repairs and repair support for hospital BMETs. Elite offers customized BMET training programs conducted at our state-of-the-art training facility by senior-level technicians. Elite is a proud USA manufacturer of OEM quality parts for telemetry systems and infusion pumps. Contact us for more information.