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What does a Clinical Engineer do?

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  • Written By: Jacob Queen
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2016
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On a fundamental level, a clinical engineer combines an understanding of modern medicine with a full understanding of engineering. It is generally the sort of job that can open up many career opportunities for a person, and a lot of those careers rely on totally different skill sets. A clinical engineer working in a hospital setting may find that he is basically a technology manager, helping to choose equipment and manage maintenance staff. If a clinical engineer gets a job in an industrial setting, he may be involved in anything from the design of medical equipment to sales. Clinical engineers can also work in a wide variety of independent consulting jobs.

Clinical engineers working in hospital settings or asset management tend to oversee systems for medical equipment. They also handle finances, data processing and staff, particularly in the hospital setting. Sometimes, clinical engineers examine new technology and train staff in its use. Individuals in this job who work in industry help design and develop medical equipment. Those who work in the private practice setting can provide information and insight into national or global bodies, such as the World Health Organization.

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Due to the increased importance of technology to the medical profession, clinical engineers have become more necessary. As the complexity of medical technology increases, medical staff need constantly updated training to handle that equipment safely and keep it functioning properly. It is also generally believed that the increased cost of this equipment has made hospitals more cautious about maintenance and caused them to enlist more expert help.

Someone who wishes to become a clinical engineer will train in a mix of engineering and medical subjects, but the specific training can vary depending on specializations and other factors. The engineering part of the training is generally extensive, covering every aspect that any other engineering career would require as well as specialized subjects that are specifically useful for clinical engineers. On the medical end, the training deals with everything from physiology to a study of the operation of medical equipment. Depending on the specific job they’re seeking, clinical engineers may also need certain people skills related to dealing with patients, medical staff or customers, in the case of sales jobs.

Although the need has generally grown for clinical engineers, the actual number of available jobs is not necessarily extensive. Specific hospitals do not always employ that many clinical engineers, and there can be a lot of competition for industrial jobs and consulting positions. Those seeking to enter this career may need to be flexible about the specific kind of job they want and willing to change location if a job opening becomes available in a distant place. Even if a specific clinical job is not available, it is often possible to find plenty of lucrative employment opportunities elsewhere.

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