A Toast to the Biomed

My introduction the biomedical profession occurred over 20 years ago when I was the manager of a combined ICU-CCU, as well as a 20 bed telemetry unit. This position enabled me to appreciate the value of these highly skilled professionals, and the contribution they made to the practice of clinical care.

The ICU-CCU consisted of a wonderful nursing staff that delivered high-quality care. However, the equipment in these units was archaic to say the least. More times than not, the biomedical team was called upon to “resuscitate” our equipment. It became a common joked that the equipment provided opportunities for the biomedical people to practice “CPR” more than we did. But I have to say that their ability to repair this equipment was remarkable.

Eventually I resigned as the supervisor of this unit to apply for anesthesia school and I became a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). Soon after, a new ICU-CCU was built and the Biomedical Dept. played an important role in the set up of new, state-of-the-art equipment and a monitoring system that was second to none.

Currently, I am enjoying my new career as a freelance CRNA. I am president and CEO of an all-CRNA group practicing in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. My colleagues and I greatly depend on the expertise of biomedical departments at all of the facilities in which we work. Needless to say, my relationship and respect for biomedical engineers and equipment technicians has expanded ten-fold.

But I’m not the only person in healthcare who appreciates the contribution of technology management, service and support professionals. As a CRNA who travels between several institutions, I have come to realize that biomedical departments are relied upon in their respective facilities by every area of clinical practice. They are a crucial component to the delivery of high quality healthcare. For example, with all of the new technology and sophisticated anesthesia equipment in existence today, it would be impossible for those of us in the surgical suite to practice our skills without the support of the many knowledgeable biomedical professionals throughout the country.

It sometimes is frustrating to work hard – very, very hard – and excel within your profession, yet not be recognized for your hard work and success by the general community. We nurse anesthetists share this frustration with our biomedical colleagues and over the years, have sought ways to communicate our message to the public. I have found that state and national organizations dedicated to advocating the role of the nurse anesthetist in healthcare have helped to expose our profession to average citizens, educating Americans who benefit every day from our commitment and hard work, and didn’t know it.

In realizing the need to expose our profession, we came up with a collaborative public relations and government relations agenda. We attended a “Senior Fair” which was sponsored by a local radio station. We took ads on local radio. We established a “Nurse Anesthetist Week” which was recognized by the legislature and other nursing disciplines. To help us celebrate “Nurse Anesthetist Week”, we invited local and state politicians, hospital administrators, physicians and other nursing groups to a reception. We now hold this reception on an annual basis. These are just a few of the activities we pursued to let people know who we are and what we do.

More important was our thrust in government relations. First and foremost, we established a Political Action Committee. Through member contributions, we started to attend political fundraisers. We went from people asking what a CRNA is, to “The Nurse Anesthetists are here in full force again.” This took a lot of hard work and hours of time but has certainly paid off. We are not only recognized for the work we do, but we are respected members of the healthcare profession.

I strongly encourage the people in the biomedical engineering profession to do the same. Take the initiative to stand up and be recognized for the crucial role, a role I already know you play, in healthcare today!

Paul F. Kilmartin, CRNA, MSNA, is currently president and CEO of Advanced Anesthesia Services, East Greenwich, R.I.