Introducing… a biomedical technologist

Introducing… a biomedical technologist

Janice Wheeler is a biomedical technologist at McMaster University Medical Centre, working mainly on operating room (OR) equipment. She has worked at Hamilton Health Sciences for 28 years. She does preventive maintenance in a workshop setting, but also carries a pager and is occasionally called to trouble shoot a system issue in the OR.

Favourite colour: coral pink / vacation spot: Lake Huron and the Maritimes / food: lobster

What made you enter your field of work?

When I graduated from high school all I wanted to do was work and have fun so I worked as a server in many restaurants.

“The thought of doing hands on work in healthcare was very appealing.”

After a few years I decided to go back to school as a mature student but had no idea what for.  I remember going to a workshop that was promoting getting women into non-traditional work and seeing biomedical technology and electronics  as one of those options.

The thought of doing hands on work in healthcare was very appealing.  I saw it as a way to make a meaningful contribution without being in direct contact with patients. I didn’t think I could handle that part of health care but this really appealed to me.

I worked backwards, picking up courses like chemistry and upgrading my math.  Once that was completed I got a diploma in electronics and an additional diploma in biomedical technology.  I was a pioneer—there were very few women in this field when I started.  The majority of biomedical technologists are still men but there are a lot more women in the field now.

What do you love most about your job?

There are lots of things I love about my job. Biomedical technologists at HHS are empowered to troubleshoot what is wrong with a device and deal with it accordingly.  This can include ordering replacement parts, assembly and dealing with manufacturers and vendors.

We set our own priorities based on the needs of people who use the equipment.  Each day can be very different.  Sometimes what starts as a low priority job can be escalated by surrounding circumstances.  This brings challenges and sometimes you have to completely change what you had planned for the day so you can get an important piece of equipment back into action. Some days you feel like you are just putting out fires others can be spent doing preventive maintenance on equipment.

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What is one thing you wish patients/colleagues knew about you?
With the financial stresses of healthcare there is a significant amount of old equipment across our sites at HHS.  Everything cannot be replaced so the Biomedical Technology Department tries to keep things going to the best of our ability.  I wish people understood that we can’t always fix things.  We don’t break the equipment we try to fix it to the best of our ability.

What are your favourite ways to spend your free time?
I enjoy cooking, especially if someone else is choosing the menu. I also like to spend time outside walking or sometimes just sitting. I have also recently started taking horseback riding lessons which are a lot harder than I expected.

When you tell people what you do, how do they usually react?
If someone I meet asks where I work, and I tell them Hamilton Health Sciences the next thing they say is usually, “are you a nurse?” When I go further and explain what my job involves they are usually really impressed and think what I do is pretty amazing. It makes me a bit bashful to hear the praise but I love what I do.

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