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Clinical engineering, which first became a distinct profession in the sixties, has become a vital component of healthcare delivery systems by leading the way in safe and effective applications of medical technology.
Clinical engineers essentially team up with hospital technicians in different disciplines to investigate incidents in which medical devices may have contributed to injuries or deaths. Clinical engineers' perspectives can be instrumental in identifying the root causes of injuries and deaths. Their understanding of equipment design principles, equipment operations, and maintenance can explain the relation between machines and humans.
Clinical engineers combine their knowledge of physical sciences with that of materials and manufacturing to improve the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. Working closely with patients, technical and medical staff, and equipment manufacturers, clinical engineers perform research and design, develop, and maintain the technology used in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and the care and rehabilitation of patients.
Contributions of Clinical Engineering
Clinical engineers perform the following activities:
Inspect, install, and perform corrective and preventative maintenance on clinical equipment used within the healthcare system
Conduct pre-purchase evaluations of new technology and equipment
Help clinical departments with service-contract analysis, negotiations, and management
Coordinate installations of clinical equipment
Investigate device incidents
Design and develop instruments for patient monitoring, diagnosis, treatment, and research
Develop and maintain computer databases of medical instrumentation and equipment records
Help hospitals purchase and use sophisticated medical instruments
Assist with adapting instrumentation for the specific needs of physicians and hospitals
Build and test new joint replacements, active implants, and equipment used for various types of non-invasive or precision surgeries
Conduct clinical trials
Handle the manufacture of aids
Conduct research on body mechanics
Handle day-to-day management of expensive hospital equipment such as scanners, imaging equipment, and physiological measuring and monitoring equipment
Participate in committees and seminars
Wonders of Clinical Engineering
The convergence of medical and engineering knowledge has helped develop products that closely match people's physical needs:
Assistive technology: wheelchairs, walking aids, and speech synthesizers
Biocompatible materials: artificial joints, heart valves, and hearing implants
Minimally invasive techniques: keyhole surgery and image-guided surgery systems
The minimum requirement to work as a clinical engineer is an accredited degree in a physical or engineering science.
Clinical Engineers' Skills and Knowledge
There are many career opportunities for clinical engineers in hospitals and research laboratories. Some clinical engineers also work as consultants. To perform their duties well, clinical engineers must possess the following competencies and interests:
Keen interest in the application of engineering to solve clinical problems
Strong analytical skills
Excellent communication skills for dealing with researchers, technicians, manufacturers, and patients
Sensitivity to patients' needs
Excellent technical knowledge
Strong mathematical skills
Strong teamwork skills
Ability to work within budgetary constraints
Motivation to remain updated on scientific, engineering, and medical knowledge.