Fort Wainwright, Alaska - At the conclusion of a medical appointment, the provider and their support staff often receive the compliments or disapproval from a patient, but whether the appointment went well or not, often begins before the patient ever enters the room.
Behind the scenes, Medical Maintenance, a group of a dozen Soldiers and civilians at Medical Department Activity-Alaska work to ensure equipment is working properly for safe patient care. This group, called biomedical electronics technicians work on everything from scales, thermometers and patient beds to defibrillators, laboratory analyzers and ventilators, the list of devices the department maintains is broad and encompasses every department.
“Quite literally all medical devices and their systems are worked on by medical maintenance,” said Chief Warrant Officer Benjamin Reid, chief of equipment management at MEDDAC-AK.
As equipment arrives, and before being used in-patient care, the team ensures it is working correctly according to manufacturer specifications.
“Throughout the medical equipment lifecycle, the team performs preventive maintenance such as inspections, calibrations and replacement of parts to keep it functioning properly,” said Reid.
In order to work as a biomedical electronics technician, Soldiers spend 41 weeks in Advanced Individual Training at Fort Sam Houston. AIT training starts with basic electronic principles and progresses to in-depth medical maintenance and troubleshooting. According to Reid, civilians tend to have graduated from a Biomedical Equipment Technician course from an accredited college or a military Biomedical Equipment Specialist/Technicians course during prior military service. Even though the training is intense and thorough, it is not possible to train for every piece of equipment the team comes across in their daily duties.
Daniel Schmidt, a civilian in the section who also worked medical maintenance during a stint in the Navy, says they have everything they need to perform their duties.
“For bigger items like mobile x-ray units or the new dental chairs there are schools to go to and we tend to group up and share our knowledge,” said Schmidt. “Working as a team definitely makes things work more smoothly.”
For other equipment, Schmidt says they use an old tried and true solution.
“We open the manual and if that doesn’t work we call tech support,” said Schmidt.
Whether working together on a complex fix or working solo for routine maintenance, the team all have one thing in common; they enjoy what they do and it shows in their work.
Pfc. Patrick Cross who has been at MEDDAC-AK for a little over two months, is enjoying the work and finds the medical field rewarding. Additionally he says there is a level of self-confidence needed for the job.
“It takes a lot of confidence to be the one to work on a piece of equipment and then certify it saying it’s working right,” said Cross. “There’s something about knowing I could work on a piece of equipment I may be connected to one day.”