Day in the (Hospital) Life: Ensuring medical equipment is working
By Eric Valdez May 30, 2014
Inside Clinical Engineering
- What it is: The Clinical Engineering Department analyzes, fixes and maintains 6,347 pieces of medical equipment used by doctors, nurses, aids and others when caring for patients.
- Who works there: The five-person team includes Socorro Chavez, who has worked at Wyoming Medical Center for two years; manager Desi Halasz, 22 years; Jay Norby, 11 years; Chris Reilly, 23 years; and Jason Skinner, 17 years. Each member has a degree in electronics. From there they add on multiple certifications through specialized trainings provided by the equipment manufacturers.
- Where it is: The clinical engineering shop is located in our engineering building on the east side on Conwell Street, however, you’ll find the technicians in every part of the hospital running diagnostics and safety inspections.
- Why it’s important: It’s essential that vital equipment in patient, emergency and operating rooms is always available and in good working order for patient care.
Wyoming Medical Center Clinical Engineering Department works in the background, preferring to draw little attention to itself. Each member of the five-person team develops his own area of expertise, but their skills overlap across all areas of the hospital and outside practices.
It’s essential that vital equipment in our patient, emergency and operating rooms is always available for patient care. Therefore, Clinical Engineering runs regular machine diagnostics, fixing any problem before it affects patient care. The manufacturer’s technicians work with our clinical engineers to interface with many units over the internet, diagnosing many issues before they occur. The type of equipment they work with is as varied as it is technical: Vacuum regulators, infusion pumps, surgical tables, OR lights, CT scanners, defibrillators and the list goes on.
They also troubleshoot real-time problems as they occur. For example, during a brain surgery several years ago, the light on the surgeon's tool went out and wouldn’t come back on. The procedure was halted. The patient was stable and not in any danger while the on-call technician was paged to the operating room, said department manager Desi Halasz.
The on-call technician began troubleshooting. As it turned out, a piece of equipment had been moved which bumped into the switch controlling the light bending the thin metal frame around the switch. The technician bent the frame out and turned the light back on. The procedure continued without any harm to the patient.
The hospital's heavy preventive maintenance program covers 5,059 pieces of equipment per year. As the critical nature of the equipment goes up, so does the requirement for preventative maintenance. Some units only have to be tested and certified when we receive them. Others are put on a yearly preventative maintenance schedule.
The critical life support systems have redundancy built in. This means there is a back-up system for each of those critical systems just in case one quits working properly during a time of need.
“When equipment leaves our shop, we want to feel secure that it could be our own family members who may have to rely on that equipment for care,” Halasz said. “A large portion of our time is spent performing electrical safety inspections and preventive maintenance.”