Beyond the Wrench

By Jeffery Niederhausen

It’s just another routine day in the biomed shop and suddenly the phone rings. It’s an imaging director fired up because the CT crashed and revenue is going out the door. You tell them you will be right up. Then you wipe your hands on your scrubs after finishing up a breakfast sandwich, and head up to radiology, thinking, “I better fix this or I am going to get chewed on for the next hour!”

Does this sound familiar or close to something you have experienced? Have you ever sat and thought of a life beyond repairing equipment? Many were drawn to this profession for the integral working on machines and being able to be a health care professional, without the many years of medical school and the large debit that goes with it. We could be in the health care arena, and affect patients’ lives in a positive way by making sure the medical equipment attached to them is working as expected and the best it can. For some, this is the pinnacle of their professional career and they could not be happier. For others, this solid foundation can open doors and lead to a greater experience in the patient care world.

I have been in this field for over 20 years and have seen biomed techs just like you rise to become powerful people within their health systems, facilities or companies. Biomed techs have become vice presidents in large health systems, department heads in hospitals, powerful and effective managers, and everything else in between. Every one of these people I have seen or personally knew started out just like most you, a bench tech. When they started out sitting at their benches, taking equipment apart and cleaning it, they never thought that one day, they would be running the whole program or calling the shots. However, something clicked inside of them over time and opportunities opened up before them, making them want to expand in their professional careers.

We all know that not everyone is made for taking the reins and being the leader or the vice president. I have been in many biomed shops across this great country of ours, and I have seen the ones who have that spark and others where they are perfectly content to be the busy bee fixing equipment daily and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. We recently promoted a technician at one of our sites to the director of the program. At first, many thought he couldn’t do it, so he was passed over. After a little time passed and candidates just were not clicking, we decided to bring this technician back in the picture for being the director. We wanted to proceed and the client agreed. No one has ever looked back. Now people simply say, “Why did we wait?” He had that spark and that drive to lead the program. He has already taken the program to a new level and the customer couldn’t be happier.

Everyone should take any opportunity presented to them, not only for career growth, but for personal growth too. The more we’re open, the more of a valued asset we become for our employer. The more we open up, the more we become a marketable commodity in the marketplace too. When training opportunities arise, don’t brush it off. Be the person who steps up and gladly trains on a new modality. Don’t be the person who refuses and grumbles about travel! Accept the challenge!

Whenever seminars are offered, take them. I would recommend taking any business seminars that are offered to you. Even though you may not be in the “business world,” there are many good and valuable tools that you could learn, not only for today, but for the future. Things like Microsoft Excel, Word, and even PowerPoint are good to learn in this day and age. Yes, techs need to do a spreadsheet every once in a while! Conflict management, dealing with difficult people, good communications are other subjects I would recommend checking out as you grow professionally.

The last big piece is school. Never be afraid to go back to school to get that degree you thought about getting. Many companies have tuition assistance that you should be able to tap into. Take it from someone who has done it. I worked full time, married with three little children, and was able to go back and get my bachelor’s degree many years ago. Even now, with my busy schedule for work, I am in the midst of going back and working on my master’s degree. I bring this up to illustrate that anyone can do this if you put forth the effort and time. It is hard and can be difficult, but ultimately the payoff will be worth it.

Like the people I mentioned earlier who were biomed techs just like you who thought bigger and used every opportunity they had to educate and better themselves to advance their careers. With biomed as their background, they had the solid foundation to understanding health care and patients coming first. They had the biomed experience to fall back on when things got tough and they knew how to fix things and make them happen. They were proud biomed techs who become leaders in the health care industry and moved beyond the wrench of fixing equipment.

Jeffery Niederhausen is the Chief Financial Officer of Tech Knowledge Associates, a clinical technology management provider that was formed to bring unique value to its clients by guaranteeing savings, capping their expenses and protecting them from catastrophic failures. For more information, contact TKA at or visit