October 1972 Popular Electronics
Table of Contents
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
published October 1954 - April 1985. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
Back in my electronics technician days I tried to get a job at a couple of the local hospitals as an on-site equipment maintenance man. That was sometime in the early 1980s. Then, as now, being a part of the healthcare system is a good way to assure job security since it is a field that keeps growing with - even outpacing - population increases. Some of the larger hospitals, similar to electronics design and manufacturing companies, used to have their own test equipment repair and calibration departments, but most of that is outsourced nowadays. This article from an 1972 issue of Popular Electronics magazine highlighted some of the challenges that promised to make a career as a medical equipment technician rewarding. You might also be interested in "Medical Electronic Equipment and Hospital Safety" that appeared in the January 1972 issue of Popular Electronics.
The Medical Electronics Technician
As modern hospitals get more electronic gear, electronics technicians are needed to take care of it
A Vocational Profile
By John H. Holmgren, Assistant Administrator
St. Joseph Hospital, Wichita, Kansas
There is a new member of the hospital staff - one who works behind the scenes but is playing an ever more important role in the use of modern, complex medical electronic systems. He is the electronics technician (ET, for short), and his job covers all of medical electronics front preventive maintenance, emergency repair, and installation of a wide variety of electronic elements, to keeping up with the latest developments in this fast-growing field.
His job is not an easy one. Many ET's are on call 24 hours a clay, 7 days a week (usually via a radio paging system) and they often have to solve a relatively complex problem in a very short time. As Dale Mason, an ET as St. Joseph Hospital, puts it, "I am at the hospital during normal working hours, averaging about 15 calls per day from departments needing electrical or electronic help - either emergency or routine maintenance. Since my electronic pager reaches out about 30 miles from the hospital, I take it home with me for emergency contacts." The salary? It can vary from $10,000 to $12,000 and up, depending on the region and the hospital.
The ET program at St. Joseph has been a success front its initiation. Bernard Keegan, Director of Material and Plant Services, says, "The electronics technician was originally hired to maintain the electronic equipment in coronary and intensive care units. His activities in this area alone have resulted in savings in maintenance and repair costs over and above his salary. He also does excellent work in inhalation therapy, the emergency room, physical therapy, and in the laboratory."
Dale Mason, electronics technician, checks a hospital CCTV monitor unit.
Here, the electronics technician and registered progress nurse are shown checking a on the remote control board of the coronary care unit at a large hospital.
The electronics technician handles many complex monitors such as this seven-channel cardiac system. He and a registered nurse are shown discussing operation of device.
The electronics technician has many different jobs to perform though they are centered on the repair and maintenance of all types of electronic equipment. On many occasions, he must instruct lower-grade maintenance personnel in advancing their electronics skills; and quite often he helps train nurses, therapists, and doctors in the technical aspects of the equipment - especially with regard to safety standards.
Among the items to be repaired and maintained are arrhythmia recorders, ECG amplifiers and recorders, defibrillators, single, dual, and multichannel scopes, heart-rate meters, remote heart-rate modules, grounding systems, various types of telemetry systems, nurse alert systems, and emergency power units. Most of these elements relate to coronary and intensive care units.
In surgery, there are ultrasonic washers, ground-detection systems, cardiac-monitor transducers and display consoles, and conductive floor testers. The physical therapy department has diathermy machines, electronic stimulators, ultrasonic generators, and traction machines for the ET to take care of. And in the hospital generally, there are many communications systems, including CB and commercial two-way radio systems, monitor receivers, paging systems (both r-f and induction), and associated antennas.
Hospital Electronic/Electrical Equipment
Analytical photometers Cardiac pacemakers Civil defense radio equipment Closed circuit television Conductivity meters (still) Diathermy machines Electric beds Electrocardiograph machines Electrocardioscopes Electroencephalograph machines Electromyograph machines Electronic nebulizers Electronic thermometers Electron microscopes Electrophysiological instruments Electrosurgical instruments Heartrate meters Laboratory apparatus Monitoring equipment in surgery Ohmmeters Operating room tables Oscilloscopes Paging systems Pulmonary function machines and respiratory monitors Resuscitators Sigmoidoscopes Static charge meters Telemetry systems for recording physiological signs Ultrasonic machines Ultrasonic reflectoscopes.
There is also quite a bit of TV equipment in most hospitals - aside from that installed by vendors in patients' rooms. There are closed-circuit systems, both color and monochrome, monitors, tape recorders, and cable distribution circuits. There may also be a CCTV patient-bed availability system which includes a number of large and small video monitors, a control station, a memory generator unit, etc. And in many cases, the hospital public address and music system comes under the aegis of the electronics technician.
Besides doing the actual maintenance and repair, the ET may also be called upon to develop specifications for certain types of electronic gear, coordinate vendor installed equipment, and check and accept any system after installation.
An ET should have vocational training from an approved electronics school (or equivalent training in the military services) and experience in servicing a diversified range of electronic equipment - from multi-transistor radio or TV through complex monitoring or diagnostic machines such as those used in industry. Usually, an ET has had experience in an industrial or commercial electronics company, has installed aircraft or marine electronics, or has worked in a military or consumer radio/TV service shop.
World of the Future
The ET has a wonderful chance to see the world of the future in medical electronics. For example, the National Heart and Lung Institute is presently contracting for telemetry devices to be worn by physically active, healthy people on a 24-hour basis to establish a monitoring or diagnostic measurement procedure for potential cardiacs. Several companies are developing such systems - and other telemetry gear to keep an eye on patients up to 1000 ft away from the monitoring console. Such a system, developed through the experiences of the NASA space programs, uses the very latest in electronics technology.
The ET may also be called upon to attend technical discussions with leaders in the industry, covering all types of sophisticated equipment-much of which is the very latest, both in circuit design and component usage. He may also be involved in discussions covering intensive care and coronary procedures, becoming an advisor to hospital management in product review, source selection, and observance of instrument safety standards.
In general, the ET's capabilities and potential in the modern hospital have just begun to make an impact, and will become far more important in the years to come as even more complex electronic equipment (including computers) takes its place beside the doctor.
Posted October 8, 2019