The staff and support network of any hospital or patient-care setting is made up of an extraordinary number of people filling a wide variety of professional roles. In addition to the physician, nurse and administrator positions most of us tend to associate with patient care, there are numerous opportunities to serve the public and help build healthier communities while working in areas as diverse as accounting, sociology and chemistry. Biomedical engineers, for example, combine science and mathematics to design and maintain medical devices and other products and systems as wide-ranging as prosthetics, organ implants, diagnostic equipment and computer software.
Given the outsized importance of technology in healthcare,1 as well as the rapid advance of medical device innovation in areas such as robotics, nanobots and tissue engineering, aspiring biomedical engineers can expect to work on the cutting edge of medicine while helping to directly impact improvements on patient safety, life expectancy and quality of life. If you’re intrigued by the thought of a career in this field, learn more about the roles and responsibilities of biomedical engineers below.
Working in Healthcare Technology
For many, the lure of engaging work and a competitive salary in an objectively glossy professional space is reason enough to pursue a career in the technology sector. But what is technology if not a means toward ultimately improving the lives of human beings? And where better to achieve that goal than in healthcare? No matter their area of expertise or specific work setting, biomedical engineers get to spend their working hours applying the science of engineering to projects and tasks that can change, and even save, the lives of patients across the world.
Leading the Way in Medical Device Innovation
The primary role of biomedical engineers in patient care is designing, developing and improving the operation and efficiency of medical devices and equipment. At first glance, that venture might sound somewhat dry–but there is a reason biomedical engineering is currently one of the fastest-growing professions.2
Imagine working as part of a team to fabricate body parts that help rebuild the face of a patient who has been burned in a fire. Among other groundbreaking technologies, biomedical engineers design and operate bioprinting systems (such as medical-grade 3D printers), which create living tissue from biologically active cells. Collaborating with healthcare professionals and device manufacturers, biomedical engineers ensure the required safety, effectiveness and usability standards of medical devices and systems. At its core, however, the field of biomedical engineering offers an opportunity to exercise your curiosity and creativity to build revolutionary technologies and forge new paths in patient care.
Advancing Healthcare Quality Improvement
Biomedical engineers are behind the creation of some of patient care’s most critical and widely used equipment and systems, including MRI and ultrasound imaging, pacemakers, prosthetics and software. Innovation begins with explorations of new engineering principles, studies and clinical trials led by biomedical engineers. These professionals are also on the front lines of efforts to iterate improved versions and specialized formats of existing technologies through research and testing that continues long after their initial introductions. Careers in biomedical engineering offer professionals in the field the opportunity to take an active role in optimizing healthcare quality in general and innovating biomedical technology in particular.
Biomedical engineers are just as vital inside the patient-care ecosystem. Clinical engineers, a subset of the profession, collaborate with healthcare professionals to help assess needs and obstacles, and formulate new solutions–sometimes through the development of new devices or systems, but often through reorienting or finding new efficiencies for existing technologies. Additionally, they are enlisted to provide training and education to healthcare professionals through instructional materials, workshops and seminars.
Biomedical Engineering: Raising the Bar on Patient Safety
In any patient care setting, there are droves of medical devices and technology-based systems that require routine assessment, maintenance and repair. This support is typically provided by clinical engineers, who are most easily described as biomedical engineers who serve in a clinical setting. Clinical engineers work directly with healthcare professionals to ensure that devices meet required safety standards, performing routine inspections, troubleshooting issues and ensuring that equipment functions properly in order to maintain patient safety.
Other biomedical engineers work in corporate or government research settings, assessing the risks associated with medical devices and proposing safety measures to minimize potential hazards. They monitor device performance, analyze data on adverse events and collaborate with regulatory bodies to address safety concerns. They are also responsible for developing new diagnostic tools based on safety standards. Biomedical engineers must be methodical in their approach, yet they must also think creatively. Most roles in the field require a deep understanding not only of device engineering, but also the nature of those who will be using the devices. For instance, human factors engineering (HFE) is a competency that takes into account the inevitability of human error and anticipates how those mistakes may manifest in the use of clinical equipment.
Ethical Responsibilities of Biomedical Engineers
The human element is a thread that necessarily runs throughout the vocation of biomedical engineering. Professionals in the field must continually consider a host of ethical aspects in their work, such as patient privacy, informed consent and the responsible use of technology. The effectiveness and safety of clinical instrumentation and equipment are central to the role. But at all times, it is the obligation of biomedical engineers to ensure that the technologies they develop and implement uphold ethical standards and respect patient rights.
Launch Your Career in Biomedical Engineering
With demand being driven by an aging population, patient care needs the exponential advances being made in the development of healthcare technology. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates a 9.8% employment growth in the field of biomedical engineering between 2021 and 2031, and ranks it #1 among best engineering jobs.4
To build your career in this engaging, fast-growing area, apply to Case Western Reserve University’s online Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering program. Take advantage of the flexibility of 100% online learning and the expertise of faculty with vast research experience. You’ll benefit from professional support, including entrepreneurial opportunities through CWRU LaunchNet.5 To take the first steps and find out more, plan a time to speak with one of our Admissions Outreach Advisors today.
- Retrieved on June 13, 2023, from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4147743/
- Retrieved on June 13, 2023, from bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/biomedical-engineers.htm
- Retrieved on June 13, 2023, from pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26466179/
- Retrieved on June 13, 2023, from money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/biomedical-engineer
- Retrieved on June 13, 2023, from case.edu/postgrad/