What is Medical Engineering?
Medical engineering is a field that has been around for decades, but it’s one that continues to transform and evolve. This challenging field refers to applying engineering’s approach and innovation to the field of medicine and healthcare.
To be a medical engineer, STEM professionals need a strong understanding of both the technical foundations of engineering and a clear understanding of medical and life sciences, including biology, chemistry, mathematics, statistics modeling, computer programming and circuitry. In addition to problem-solving and analytical skills, medical engineers need strong creativity and communication skills. Those soft skills are critical because medical engineers need to be able to work with the many different professions and personality types in the healthcare and research fields.
What does a medical engineer do?
Much like every field of engineering, medical engineering covers a wide range of career paths and opportunities, but it is a growing specialization. As baby boomers retire and the aging population grows, there is an increased demand for better technology and solutions for common and uncommon medical concerns. Specialities for bioengineers include bioinstrumentation, biomaterials, biomechanics, clinical engineering, rehabilitation and systems physiology. Most bioengineers work in medical equipment and manufacturing as well as research and development.1 They can be found in hospitals, laboratories, manufacturing floors and more. Read below for some of the more common career paths.
Managing medical equipment: Medical engineers are regularly employed by hospitals and clinics, making sure medical equipment is running properly. They’re responsible for maintenance and ensuring safety requirements are being met, in addition to understanding the risks a machine could pose to patients and the technicians operating it. The equipment they work on range from small devices such as a nebulizer, to larger critical machines such as x-ray imaging systems. Some medical engineers in this type of role might work for federal or state agencies monitoring and investigating equipment failures or recalls.
Development: These medical engineers work in research, testing and building new theories or specialized equipment. While some engineers work to find better ways to diagnose and treat illness and disease, other medical engineers work in biomaterials, which means they study and design man-made materials that can work with and alongside human cells. Biomaterials are used to address a wide range of issues, whether it’s replacing human tissue or organs or administering drugs through more effective and precise delivery mechanisms. This type of engineering research has drastically shifted toward more dynamic and adaptable innovations. Working alongside medical professionals and researchers from various different fields of STEM, this career requires cross-disciplinary knowledge and strong communication skills.
Informatics: Bioengineers play a critical role in bringing new discoveries to doctors and patients. By focusing on computer science and engineering, engineers in this specialization develop better and faster imaging programs, medical and monitoring devices, diagnostics and digital modeling through tools like machine learning, data management and artificial intelligence. They create both software and hardware for these programs. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of this field, a medical engineer in informatics needs to be prepared to work with professionals from across the healthcare and research fields. They can be critical for better understanding research and implementing it.
Robotics: This is another growing and evolving field of medical engineering. Robotics are being used in surgery, endoscopy and rehabilitation care. Surgical and endoscopic robots can speed up recovery for patients and save costs for both patients and the hospital, while rehabilitation robotics have been used as a functional prosthetic or as a tool in therapy. Robots also play a critical support role by delivering medical supplies and medication as well as disinfecting patient rooms and hospitals. Robots are also a valuable tool in education and continuing education: Clinical training robots allow medical and healthcare students to practice procedures and techniques while receiving feedback on their performance.
Instrumentation: While medical engineering is frequently used to treat patients, it is also a critical tool in monitoring their health through sensors, imaging, diagnostics as well as genome study. This specialization focuses on understanding and evaluating the entire biological system—from cells to tissues to the entire body—to find better treatment. This is among the new fields of medical engineering and is very research-focused.
Clinical engineering: This field serves as the bridge between laboratories and clinical practice. These bioengineers work with doctors, nurses, technicians and other medical professionals to find ways to improve their work, whether it’s finding ways to improve medical equipment through software development or updates to the design itself.
Advance Your Medical Engineering Career
At the Case School of Engineering, find the graduate degree that will help you stand apart. Earn your Master of Engineering, Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering or Master of Science in Systems and Control Engineering, entirely online from a renowned research institution.
If you’re ready to get ahead in medical engineering though, our Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering focuses on the critical skills needed to be a leader in the field. Our faculty are experts in neural engineering, imaging, prosthetics, biomaterials, tissue engineering and more, while their work addresses cancer, epilepsy, paralysis, stroke, cardiac arrhythmias, infection and today’s critical medical challenges. Start your application today, and earn your degree from one of the first biomedical engineering programs in the world and one of the top-ranked biomedical engineering programs in the nation, according to U.S. News and World Report.2
1 Retrieved on September 17, 2020 from bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/biomedical-engineers.htm#tab-1
2 Retrieved on April 21, 2020, from usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/case-western-reserve-university-201645/overall-rankings