Engineering World Health (EWH) began its biomedical equipment technician (BMET) training program in late 2009 to provide training for 45 technicians in Rwanda. The program was funded by the GE Foundation with the goal of providing enough trained technicians to service every hospital in Rwanda within three years. Thanks to further funding from the GE Foundation, EWH is expanding its training program to Cambodia, Honduras and Ghana.
The EWH BMET training programs feature needs-based curricula tailored to each country in partnership with Duke University. In Rwanda and Cambodia an introductory BMET training course is offered. The students learn about healthcare technology management, computer skills, principles of medical device operation, and professional development. They build their equipment repair abilities through a broad base of specific skills that apply to the maintenance and repair of numerous types of biomedical equipment. In these countries, technicians attend a two-month intensive course twice per year. With this method, the student technicians reinforce their classroom learning with alternating time periods of hands-on practice at their hospital, and the hospitals begin reaping the benefits immediately after the first session of classes finish. After three years and six training sessions, the students receive a certification in BMET.
In Ghana and Honduras, there are already a significant number of biomedical equipment technicians who have received some level of introductory training, thanks to other training programs that have been available for technicians in these countries. The goal of the program in these locations is to provide continuing education to practicing BMETs and to promote the development of professional societies of biomedical technicians and engineers. GE is also making donations of sophisticated, state-of-the-art machines in these countries, and technicians need updated knowledge to support the advanced technology being installed by GE and other equipment manufacturers. Based on interviews with BMETs on assessment trips, EWH is looking into new training models for these programs that can incorporate remote, online learning and support for technicians and classroom hours that accommodate technicians who are already practicing at full-time jobs.
The basis for the training is a new curriculum developed by Robert Malkin’s Developing World Healthcare Technology lab, with help from undergraduate volunteers at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering. Allison Keane (2009 BME) did the basic research, analyzing reports from several thousand pieces of broken medical equipment and spending a summer in Africa with the EWH-Duke Summer Institute in 2008. Keane determined why medical equipment that works in the US fails when it arrives in the developing world. Using that information Jenna Maloka (2009 BME) and Keane determined what knowledge one would need to return the equipment to service in a resource-poor setting. Then, Mhoire and Kathleen Murphy (2009 BME) and Marian Dickinson (2010 BME) converted that knowledge into a curriculum that could be taught to secondary school graduates.