Clinical Engineer Careers

How to become Clinical Engineer

What does a Clinical Engineer do?

Clinical engineers, sometimes known as bioengineers, research, design, develop and maintain technology and equipment used to meet patients' clinical needs both during and after medical treatment. They work in the fields of instrumentation, rehabilitation and biomaterials. The work includes building and testing prototypes, running clinical trials, evaluating results and building products. Clinical engineers are employed by the health service, medical equipment manufacturers and university research departments.

Engineers design and develop assistive technology, for example, wheelchairs, walking aids, speech synthesizers or robotic and electronic technology used in the rehabilitation of stroke patients. This often involves custom building products to match as closely as possible the requirements of the individual.

They also develop and test replacement prostheses, for instance, by using microelectronic technology, they can integrate sensors on an artificial limb with the patient's own nervous system. They create new types of artificial joint, heart valves and hearing implants, using a variety of new biocompatible materials in order to minimise bodily rejection. Engineers employ biomechanical research techniques to analyse in greater detail the problems encountered by patients who have undergone prosthetic treatments.

Engineers design and build equipment which enables new forms of medical treatment to evolve, for example, precision instruments used in minimally-invasive techniques, such as keyhole surgery and image-guided surgery systems.

Engineers are also responsible for the day-to-day management of medical equipment, such as scanners, imaging equipment, and physiological measuring and monitoring equipment, scheduling quality assurance checks to ensure they are functioning correctly and safely.

Engineers often specialise in a particular aspect of clinical engineering such as medical physics, electronics, biomechanics or materials. They work closely with other medical professionals, technical staff and patients.

What's the working environment like working as a Clinical Engineer?

Clinical engineers normally work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. In hospitals, they may have extra on-call or standby duties. Part time work is possible.

Those employed in hospitals spend about half their time in clinics and the rest in workshops. In research and industry, the work is laboratory based.

What does it take to become a Clinical Engineer?

To be a clinical engineer you should:

  • have a keen interest in the application of engineering to overcome clinical problems
  • have strong analytical skills and an innovative approach to problem solving
  • have excellent communication skills for dealing with people at all levels
  • be sensitive to patients' needs
  • have excellent technical knowledge
  • be able to prioritise and plan effectively
  • be able to work in a multidisciplinary team
  • be able to work within budgetary constraints
  • continually update knowledge of scientific, engineering and medical research.

Clinical Engineer Career Opportunities

Employers include hospitals, universities, research establishments such as the Medical Research Council, and manufacturers of medical equipment. In universities, research work may be combined with teaching duties. Some clinical engineers are self-employed and work on a consultancy basis.

In the NHS clinical engineers can be promoted to consultant-level grades. It is possible to move from jobs in the health service to jobs with medical equipment manufacturers.

Chartered engineers may progress into senior general management and be responsible for a team of incorporated engineers and technicians.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Clinical Engineer that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM)
Fairmount House
230 Tadcaster Road
YO24 1ES
Tel: 01904 610821

NHS Careers
Tel: 0845 606 0655

NHS Learning and Development Service
Tel: 08000 150 850

Facts and Stats:

  • Isambard Kingdom Brunel was only 5ft tall and wore a top hat to make himself look taller
  • Engineering generates more than 40 per cent of the UK¿s national wealth
  • The Box Hill tunnel, part of Brunel¿s Great Western Railway, took five years to dig and at two miles long was the longest tunnel in the world at the time

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