Life as a Bio-Medical Equipment Technician

Allan LaViers
Initial Outfitting and Transition (IO&T) is considerably more complicated than simply outfitting an office building because of the potential impact to patient safety. In the case of a medical emergency, everything has to work correctly and every medical provider has to know how the equipment works.

I'm a project manager with Faithful+Gould and currently a member of the Health Facilities Group completing Initial Outfitting and Transition (IO&T) projects around the world. I started my career as a Bio-Medical Equipment Technician (BMET), responsible for repairing and maintaining medical devices rendering them safe for human treatment and diagnosis. For the last 10 years I have been an Equipment Lifecycle manager/specialist – similar to a BMET, this role is concerned with all medical equipment from the inception of a requirement to the final disposition of a device no longer needed.

About IO&T

IO&T represents services which include identifying what medical equipment, IT components and furniture is needed in a newly constructed or renovated medical facility, comparing those requirements to their existing equipment to see what can be reused, and then procuring the difference. In addition to identifying what equipment is needed, we map out the sequence of events in which to install the new equipment, reuse the old equipment, and to move the personnel into the new location. We also coordinate training on the new equipment and work with the medical staff to help them identify process changes then modify their processes and procedures so the medical facility can be ready to see patients on the first day. Installation includes receiving the equipment, placing the equipment into operation and verifying that the equipment functions in accordance with the manufactures specifications to ensure that it will not cause harm to the patient.

The Skills Required

The two biggest skills are time management and a big rock-little rock mentality. I can juggle a few projects, but when the work heats up and demands start to accumulate, you have to be able to determine which demands will need attention first. I also believe that an ability to communicate with the client easily regardless of distance is a required trait/skill necessary for this type of work.

It is hard to say what kind of training or background is necessary for this type of work, because it requires such a wide variety of backgrounds and skills for a project to be successful but good project management skills and a solid technical background are essential. Personally, I have an MBA in Information Management Systems and 22 years of experience working with medical equipment and in medical facilities. Also, I am a Project Management Professional (PMP) and a certified Biomedical Equipment Technician (CBET).

My Role on IO&T Projects

I have different roles on each project depending on the needs of the project and the team. I serve as the equipment design manager on the Weed Army Community Hospital in Fort Irwin, California, the equipment installation lead at the Keller Army Community Hospital Addition in West Point, New York and a transition planner for the USAMMCE warehouse relocation project in Germany.

At Fort Irwin, CA we have been contracted to conduct IO&T of personnel and equipment to the new 217,000-square-foot, LEED® Platinum Weed Army Community Hospital and the 30,000-square-foot renovation of an existing outpatient clinic.

We held a series of User Group meetings with representatives from every department in the hospital...

I am the equipment design manager for this project. My team and I support the project manager in providing the equipment requirements for the new space, determining what will continue to be used from the old space, and the myriad of details that are secondary to the equipment. A snapshot of the work that has been accomplished on this project includes; an inventory of the existing equipment. The inventory provided us with a clear idea of the equipment that the Weed Army Community Hospital currently had in use that would be fully mission capable, and allowed us to determine the difference between what they had and the equipment that was required on the new building. We held a series of User Group meetings with representatives from every department in the hospital to review the plans for their new space, if they had the correct equipment as well as identifying any shortages or surplus. The result of this was a listing of the equipment for every room along with the specifications for that equipment and an accurate floor plan layout for the furniture and equipment.

For the Keller Army Community Hospital Addition in West Point, NY, we are conducting the initial outfitting and transition of personnel and equipment into the new 52,000-square-foot hospital addition. This addition will house optometry, dermatology, ENT, physical therapy, podiatry, and orthopaedic clinics, and provide administrative office space.

In West Point I have provided quality assurance for all medical equipment related activities throughout the planning phase, and as the BMET lead for the installation and verification of calibration for the medical equipment in the new space. At present, my team and I are working from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week to get equipment in-processed into the hospital.

For the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Center – Europe Relocation Project we are planning then conducting the relocation of the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Center, Europe (USAMMCE) from Husterhoeh Kaserne, Pirmasens, Germany to Kaiserslautern Army Depot (KAD), Kaiserslautern, Germany and the initial outfitting of the new facilities. USAMMCE is one of the largest medical logistics warehouses in the world. It supports all US military bases and embassies in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

We work with and learn the personality traits and preferences of each of our clients...

I was part of the initial inventory team to identify what equipment they had and the condition of that equipment and I have assisted in the transition planning for the project. This project not only includes a move but it also includes a reduction in square footage for the organization. They are going from more than 500,000 square feet to just over 200,000 square feet. This will cause a complete change to the way they operate but we are working to prepare them for the change.

Since our work is primarily with the Department of Defense, there are strong similarities between projects. There are a few instances in which processes differ in one place over another, but this is tied predominately to the local requirements for things like disposal or equipment turn in, or requirements that deal with hazmat. The biggest differences come from working with the individuals on each project and their idiosyncrasies. We work with and learn the personality traits and preferences of each of our clients, while recognizing that within a year, they can be replaced and we will need to start over from the beginning.

Embracing the Challenge

The most challenging aspect of IO&T is balancing what the client wants against what we are allowed to provide based on the contract they have given us. We try our best to provide what is best for the medical provider while staying with the limitations imposed on us by our contract. Many times the person on the ground wants one thing while the management team wants something different. We are often able to see the differences that they do not see or that they have not addressed with each other and help them come to resolution.

I love the work that I do, and despite the fact that to an outsider this looks very tedious, I find it exciting and interesting, and I enjoy doing it!

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