Studies & Degrees in Biomedical Engineering
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Biomedical Engineering Study Programs
Biomedical Engineering or more commonly known as BME is one of the newest fields to emerge in medical science. Not to be mistaken for biotechnology, Biomedical Engineering deals mainly with medical equipments while biotechnology is a broader term which also includes the use of living organisms.
The field of Biomedical Engineering has been responsible for several breakthroughs that have changed the way medical doctors diagnose and treat patients. Biomedical Engineering now allow those who have implanted pacemakers live longer compared to those who got implants 10 years ago due to inclusions of biocompatible materials. Diagnostic medicine improved by leaps and bounds due to breakthroughs in Biomedical Engineering. One such breakthrough is the Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI. Who would have thought of using water inside the body together with radio frequency to produce a high resolution image of any given internal body part without the ionizing radiation? Truly, a major breakthrough in diagnostic medicine because MRI can detect abnormal tissues such as tumors without subjecting patients to dangerous radio-active rays as X-rays would. Another underrated contribution of Biomedical Engineering is the use of mobile diagnostic instruments. Digital thermometers, blood-sugar monitoring devices, fat-body mass index calculators and other devices that can give results instantly and accurately are now being widely used all over the world. In fact, in the battle against the spread of A(H1N1) virus, digital thermometers are used to detect symptoms. Thermometers shaped like a gun are pointed a few inches away from the throat because a symptom of A(H1N1) infection is an infected throat and if the special thermometer gives an abnormal reading in the throat area, automatically the patient are advised to see a doctor. This special thermometer is now being used in almost all airports around the world.
Biomedical Engineering also covers replacements of severed body parts or in medical terms, prosthetics. It is biomedical engineers who make artificial ears, eyes, hands, and legs. Presently, nobody can be seen wearing a wooden leg because Biomedical Engineering has created artificial legs that look like the real ones. Although there is not much room for improvement in the area of prosthetics, in general, there are however developments ongoing to make artificial hands pick up and grasp objects.
Indeed, Biomedical Engineering is still in its initial stages and very much has a lot of innovations to make to help humankind. Right now, the implantation of microchips to willing patients containing pertinent medical details like sickness history, allergies, blood types, organ donor details are in the works but is still a subject of long debates on its implementation. This microchip would give very important details in cases of emergencies as more often the case is, a lot of emergency-case patients die because of certain information like blood type and allergies have to be extracted by doing some tests to get these necessary information before giving them proper treatment. During emergency cases, a minute of lost time can spell the difference between life and death.
To those who want to get in the exciting action of inventing useful medical devises can now take courses in Biomedical Engineering. Expect this to be a difficult course because this combines medical and engineering concepts.
Job positions for Biomedical Engineering:
Biomedical Equipment Technician
Biomedical Equipment Technicians or BMETs for short are among the most blessed profession. Usually, these men and women are employed by hospitals, private clinics, research institutions and perhaps the military. In general, BMETs install, repair, calibrate, maintain and operate biomedical equipments. In a hospital setting, next to the doctors, BMETs are the next important group of professionals because they are the only ones with the capability of operating those important and expensive machines like life support systems, MRIs, dialysis machines, lab testing machines, machines used during surgical procedures, radiographic and fluoroscopic x-ray, LASERs, Gamma cameras, positron emission tomography, CT scans and the list goes on. Since operation and maintenance of equipments are their overall responsibility, it is also their responsibility to coordinate with suppliers for parts and supplies to ensure 100% functioning of these life-saving machines.
Imagine what would happen if BMETs go on strike even for just one day, if they’re conscience can allow it. Probably, hospital operations will come to a grinding halt unless the doctors are willing to do what the BMETs do. A strike by the BMETs would mean cessation of usage of all the hospital machines. Of course, doctors would still be able to perform their routine check ups but what about those scheduled for bypass operations which would require an operator for a heart-lung machine? Who will process then the test results that will determine whether the patient needs to be surgically operated right away? The possibilities are endless, especially now when potent viruses are springing here and there and anything could happen any given day, for sure, services of BMETs are increasingly becoming more indispensable.
The best thing about BMETs is that they are highly specialized technicians so security of tenure would not be a problem aside from the fact that they are one of the highest paid technicians. The only drawback to being a BMET is the occasional emergency calls. Naturally, due to usage, machines are subject to wear and tear and these machines would break down at some point. Sometimes it could happen during holiday leaves and because lives depend on these machines, the BMETs are obliged to come in and repair the machine. The stress does not stop there, as mentioned lives depend on the proper functioning of these machines, so the BMETs will need to stay for how long until the machines are assessed to do what they should.
Outside hospitals and private clinics, BMETs can be employed by wealthy individuals who have life support systems or who have his own dialysis machine at home. Of course, they do not act on their own but simply operate the machines. These BMETs are always acting in accordance with a doctor’s advice.
Those interested in becoming a Biomedical Equipment Technician can start by enrolling in a two-year biomedical technician course. Don’t be discouraged if entry level salary is a bit low but with experience, it will get better and better. Perhaps, the best paid biomedical technicians are those working directly under an equipment manufacturer’s coupled by being holders of specialty certifications, BMET’s salary can reach up to $90,000 to $100,000 in the US.
One of the most in-demand professions today is a Biomedical Engineer. Two reasons why Biomedical Engineers are much sought after are because there are only few practicing Biomedical Engineers and the field of Biomedical Engineering is experiencing quite a boom as demand for biomedical devices increased greatly for the last couple of years. Biomedical Engineers are the ones responsible in the designing, development and evaluation of biomedical and health systems. Products such as pacemakers or any kind of artificial organs, prostheses (body parts that do not require transplantation) and instrumentation are the usual things Biomedical Engineer works on. Designing and development of medical information systems, health management and health care delivery systems are also within the job description of Biomedical Engineers.
Primarily, Biomedical Engineers would be involved in extensive research to develop new equipments and instruments to be used in diagnosing and treatment of medical conditions. These new products borne out from these researches are then evaluated for safety and effectiveness. As with any new medical products, the impact of its safe usage is the most important consideration. Usually, radiation emission levels are checked because a certain level of radiation exposure can have adverse effects in human cells and tissues. Included also in the list of things Biomedical Engineers’ research heavily on is the type of materials to be used for artificial organs. Although, current materials used have greatly improved with regards to compatibility, the search for a perfect transplant material that would not trigger the human body’s immune system still remains elusive.
Another important aspect that Biomedical Engineers consider is modeling computer programs that will be used. Notice that all modern equipments have computer programs that accompany them. For example, a Biomedical Engineer hypothesized that equipment can actually count accurately blood platelets without taking blood samples by attaching an x-ray type apparatus in the wrist and at the same time stopping the blood flow in the whole arm where the apparatus will be attached. How the platelets will be counted, what parameters will be used would depend on what model the Biomedical Engineer would use. Like, let’s say, for every 100cc of blood, a corresponding ratio of white blood cells and red blood cells should correspond accordingly and based from these ratios, the number of platelets can be derived with the use of a special program that will compute these ratios. The programs are usually made by computer programmers but the models and parameters of the program can only be thought out by biomedical engineers since they are the ones who know what the device they are making is for.
Assuming, a breakthrough biomedical device has been engineered, Biomedical Engineers are also the only ones capable of explaining how the equipment works. So, naturally, doing the rounds on hospitals to do product demonstrations and sales marketing would also fall on their shoulders.
To trudge on the path of a Biomedical Engineer, knowledge of the practical application of engineering concepts, particularly electrical or mechanical engineering is needed in order to make those special equipments. Knowledge on statistical analysis methods should also prove a useful skill as product evaluation and testing would be part of a Biomedical Engineer’s life.