You are effusive with your doctor whenever they provide a diagnoses and prescribe a treatment that solves your health problems. You treat your nurses well, showing your gratitude as much you can, knowing how much they do to keep you comfortable and informed. Whenever you come into contact with a medical professional, you give your thanks — but there are dozens of professionals working behind the scenes to keep you and your community healthy.
Biomedical engineers make up one such professional. Though they rarely interface with patients, biomedical engineers are responsible for many of the advancements in diagnosis and treatment in recent decades. However, not many patients know that biomedical engineers are helping solve their medical maladies; indeed, you might not have any clue what biomedical engineers really do.
To further inform your understanding of the medical system, here’s some information on biomedical engineering and how it contributes to patient outcomes in the 21st century.
The Vast and Varied Roles of Biomedical Engineers
Biomedical engineers focus on designing, improving and maintaining machines and tools used by medical professionals for diagnosis and treatment. Just as there are dozens of kinds of doctors, there are dozens of kinds of biomedical engineers, each specializing in a different kind of medical equipment or type of engineering service. Some biomedical engineers focus more intently on digital devices, other mechanical tools and others biological components necessary for treatment and health.
Here are a few of the most common jobs practiced by biomedical engineers today:
- Medical imaging. Every medical imaging machine you’ve ever used (or heard about) was created by a biomedical engineer. Many are working to improve medical imaging for more precise diagnostics and treatment.
- Prosthetics. Biomedical engineers design prosthetics for patients who have lost digits or limbs; some work one-on-one with patients while others improve designs with new methods, materials or technologies.
- Tissue engineering. One of the most promising developments in biomedical engineering, tissue engineering could allow for the regrowth of tissues and organs, negating the need for donors and transplants.
- Neural engineering. The nervous system is arguably the most complex in the human body, and neural engineering focuses on connecting the nervous system to artificial medical devices for improved health. These engineers often work closely with those in prosthetics.
- Telehealth. In the future, you could receive medical information over the internet. Biomedical engineers in telehealth are developing devices that facilitate this service.
Most biomedical engineers enter the field after earning a bachelor’s degree, but more than other types of engineers, biomedical engineers often return to school for advanced training at the master’s level. They can earn their biomedical engineering degree online or on campus; both provide sufficient instruction in the necessary subjects for engineers to hone their skill and enter the healthcare industry equipped to improve patient outcomes.
Where Biomedical Engineers Work
Again, just as doctors can be found in all sorts of healthcare-related facilities, biomedical engineers work in a variety of settings. Though biomedical engineers rarely find employment at a private medical practice — like your general practitioner’s office — there are biomedical engineers toiling away at hospitals and clinics around the country. In these environments, biomedical engineers are mostly on staff to ensure that equipment remains functioning as expected or to assist clinical medical staff in the proper use of certain devices.
Research facilities are the primary employers of biomedical engineers. These include private biomedical research firms as well as government and academic laboratories. These employers can provide biomedical engineers with the tools they need to innovate better than hospitals can. Still, many of these biomedical engineers will visit healthcare settings to observe their machines in use and improve their designs as necessary.
Sending Thanks to Biomedical Engineers
Though every worker appreciates gratitude, it might be more difficult to send thanks to biomedical engineers than it is to acknowledge the efforts of your doctors or nurses. This is because most biomedical engineers do not meet the patients affected by their medical equipment. If you happen to interface directly with a biomedical engineer developing devices for your medical benefit, you absolutely should shake their hand and express your gratitude — but otherwise, you should know that most engineers are happy contributing to healthcare from backstage.