Medical Equipment Repairer Careers

Significant Points

  • Employment is projected to grow 27 percent, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.
  • Excellent job opportunities are expected.
  • Employers generally prefer applicants with an associate's degree in biomedical equipment technology or engineering; a bachelor's degree often is needed for advancement.
  • Repairers may be on-call around the clock in case of emergencies.

Nature of the Work

Medical equipment repairers, also known as biomedical equipment technicians (BMET), maintain, adjust, calibrate, and repair a wide variety of electronic, electromechanical, and hydraulic equipment used in hospitals and other medical environments, including health practitioners' offices. They may work on patient monitors, defibrillators, medical imaging equipment (x rays, CAT scanners, and ultrasound equipment), voice-controlled operating tables, electric wheelchairs, as well as other sophisticated dental, optometric, and ophthalmic equipment.

Medical equipment repairers use a wide variety of tools to conduct their work, including multimeters, specialized software, and computers designed to communicate with specific pieces of hardware. They may also use hand tools, soldering irons, and other electronic tools to fix or adjust malfunctioning equipment, such as a broken wheelchair. If a machine is not functioning to its potential, the repairer may have to adjust the mechanical or hydraulic components, or adjust the software to bring the equipment back into calibration. Most medical equipment is powered by electricity, but because many also have mechanical and hydraulic components, being familiar with all of these systems is critical.

In some cases, medical equipment repairers perform routine scheduled maintenance to ensure that all equipment is in good working order. Since many doctors, particularly specialty practitioners, regularly use complex medical devices to run tests and diagnose patients, they must be guaranteed that the readings are accurate. For less complicated equipment, such as electric hospital beds, many repairs may take place on an as-needed-basis.

In a hospital setting, specialists must be comfortable working around patients because repairs occasionally must take place while equipment is being used. When this is the case, the repairer must take great care to ensure that repairs do not disturb patients.

Many medical equipment repairers are employed in hospitals. Some, however, work for electronic equipment repair and maintenance companies that service medical equipment used by other health practitioners, including gynecologists, orthodontists, veterinarians, and other diagnostic medical professionals. Whereas some medical equipment repairers are trained to fix a wide variety of equipment, others specialize and become proficient at repairing one or a small number of machines.

Work environment. Medical equipment repairers usually work daytime hours, but are often expected to be on call. Still, like other hospital employees, some repairers work irregular hours and may be required to work overtime if an important piece of medical equipment malfunctions. Medical equipment repairers often must work in a patient environment, which has the potential to expose them to diseases and other health risks. Because medical equipment is often used in life-saving therapies, diagnosing and repairing equipment can be urgent. Although this may be gratifying, it can also be very stressful. Those who work as contractors often have to travel-sometimes long distances-to perform needed repairs.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

Employers generally prefer candidates with an associate's degree in biomedical technology or engineering; a bachelor's degree often is needed for advancement.

Education and training. Although education requirements vary depending on a worker's experience and area of specialization, the most common education path for repairers is an associate degree in biomedical equipment technology or engineering. Those who repair less complicated equipment, such as hospital beds or electric wheelchairs, may learn entirely through on-the-job training. Others, particularly those who work on more sophisticated equipment such as CAT scanners and defibrillators, may need a bachelor's degree. New workers generally start by observing and assisting experienced repairers over a period of 3 to 6 months, learning a single piece of equipment at a time. Gradually, they begin working more independently, while still under close supervision. Each piece of equipment is different, and medical equipment repairers must learn each one separately. In some cases, this requires careful study of a machine's technical specifications and manual. Medical device manufacturers also may provide training courses in a classroom or online.

Because medical equipment technology is rapidly evolving and new devices are frequently introduced, repairers must constantly update their skills and knowledge of equipment. As a result, they must constantly learn new technologies and equipment through seminars, self-study, and certification exams.

Certification and other qualifications. Medical equipment repairers are problem solvers-diagnosing and repairing equipment, often under time constraints-therefore, being able to work under pressure is critical. As in most repair occupations, having mechanical and technical aptitude, as well as manual dexterity, is important.

Some associations offer certifications for medical equipment repairers. For example, the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) offers certification in three specialty areas-Certified Biomedical Equipment Technician (CBET), Certified Radiology Equipment Specialists (CRES), and Certified Laboratory Equipment Specialist (CLEB). Those who wish to become certified must satisfy a combination of education and experience requirements prior to taking the AAMI examination. Candidates who meet the necessary criteria can begin pursuing the desired certification on the basis of their qualifications. Certification demonstrates a level of competency and can make an applicant more attractive to employers, as well as increase one's opportunities for advancement. Most employers, particularly hospitals, often pay for their in-house medical repairers to become certified.

Advancement. Most medical equipment repairers advance by demonstrating competency at lower levels, which allows them to repair more complex equipment. Some may become supervisors or managers, but these positions usually require a bachelor's degree. Experienced repairers also may serve as mentors for new employees or teach training courses on specific products.

Job Outlook

Medical equipment repairers are projected to grow much faster than average between 2008 and 2018. Opportunities should be excellent for qualified job seekers.

Employment change. Employment of medical equipment repairers is expected to grow 27 percent over the 2008-18 decade, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. As the proportion of people in older age groups will grow faster than the total population between 2008 and 2018, demand for overall healthcare will increase. Increased demand for healthcare services and increasing complexity of the medical equipment used in hospitals and by private practitioners will result in a greater need for repairers. For example, a growing number of hospital diagnostic, electromedical, and patient monitoring equipment including CAT scans, electrocardiogram, magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasound, and x-ray machines, as well as hospital furniture, such as full electric beds and wheelchairs, will all need to be maintained and repaired. Additionally, machines used by private practitioners and technicians to diagnose and treat vision, teeth, and other parts of the human body also are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and will further spur growth of medical equipment repairers.

Job prospects. A combination of employment growth and the need to replace workers leaving the occupation will result in excellent job prospects over the next decade. The number of job openings is expected to outnumber the number of qualified applicants; therefore, applicants should have little difficulty finding jobs. Candidates with an associate's degree in biomedical equipment technology or engineering should have the best prospects. Opportunities should be even more abundant for those who are willing to relocate because relatively few qualified applicants can be found in rural areas.