What is Clinical Engineering?

According to the American College of Clinical Engineering (ACCE), a clinical engineer is “a professional who supports and advances patient care by applying engineering and managerial skills to healthcare technology.” This profession is recognized by the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) as well.

In some situations, clinical engineers and biomedical engineers are confused as the same thing. Many hospitals use the terms interchangeably. The difference between the two roles is that biomedical engineers are more all-encompassing and work with the design of medical devices while clinical engineers specifically work in the day-to-day operations of a hospital, interacting with the technology, patients, and problem-solving.

Clinical engineering also requires that the engineer be prepared to work with both medical equipment and doctors, nurses, technicians, patients, and patient family members. A clinical engineer must be an expert in their field and must continue their education to stay on top of advancements.

What Do I Need to Become a Clinical Engineer?

Clinical engineers come from a variety of backgrounds, but a bachelor’s degree accredited by The Institution of Engineering and Technology or the Institution of Mechanical Engineers is imperative to begin work. These degrees can be in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, physics, electronic engineering, or biomedical science/engineering.

Day to Day Activities

Within the Healthcare Technology Management (HTM) field, clinical engineering is a specialty that falls under biomedical engineering but primarily works to develop, apply, and implement medical technology for optimum healthcare. Clinical engineers often train and supervise biomedical equipment technicians (BMETs), coordinate with governmental regulators for audits, and consult with hospital staff on medical technology. Through their research and hands-on experience, clinical engineers provide important knowledge on design improvements and help direct hospital procurement of new technology.

A clinical engineer has many different types of tasks throughout a typical workday. It’s not unusual to find a clinical engineer testing equipment, whether mobility aids such as wheelchairs and high-tech walkers to speech synthesizers. Beyond testing, engineers apply their tests and work to the development of artificial limbs that attach to living tissue to provide optimum control of the artificial limb and improve life quality.

Clinical engineers also participate in the exciting work of developing all sorts of technological implants such as artificial joints, heart valves, and hearing implants. Part of their work is to reduce the chance of the patient’s body rejecting the impact while also discovering new materials that work better within the body.

Clinical engineers work closely with doctors to design equipment that can aid doctors in medical procedures, such as optical instruments for keyhole surgery in the eye.

When clinical engineers aren’t researching, studying, developing, and designing new medical equipment to meet the needs of doctors and patients, they often are managing the care of medical equipment, such as scanners, imaging machines, and monitoring systems through quality assurance checks and routine check-ups.

While clinical engineers may not be known for revolutionary designs and developments for healthcare technology, they are often the ones to recognize and implement small and practical redesigns that improve efficiency and care. In some ways, clinical engineers are the link between product originators and product users.

A Quick History of Clinical Engineering

Clinical engineering is a relatively new profession as it was first recognized in the 1940s, but was not given a title until 1969. Due to the newness of much of our technology and healthcare systems, biomedical engineering is also fairly new. As a new profession and industry, the current clinical engineering certification (CCE) program only just begun in 2002. The standards of the program are sponsored by the ACCE and overseen by the ACCE Healthcare Technology Foundation.

Clinical engineers also help to develop medical innovations, prioritizing diagnostic equipment and drug therapies for patient recovery. They can also manage and administer an organization’s medical equipment, computer systems, data processing, and more.

You should consider clinical engineering if you enjoy math, science, computer programming, problem-solving, and have an interest in health care.

Average Salary: $90K

Required Education: Bachelor’s Degree

Employers: Medical equipment manufacturers, hospitals, research and development services

Clinical engineering is a crucial role within the healthcare industry as it provides ongoing development of the best types of healthcare, medical equipment, and therapies. If you love caring for people while also working with cutting edge technology, clinical engineering is for you.

At InterMed, our goal is to connect hospitals with the technical and mechanical support that they need for daily operation. For more information about our products and services, give us a call today at (386) 462-5220.