Back to the floor - Medical Devices and Medical Engineering

For this "back to the floor' visit I was spending the morning with the teams who look after medical devices and medical engineering. I was greeted by Daron, our Chief Medical Engineer and Paul, our Medical Engineering Manager. Paul took me along to the Medical Devices library to introduce me to the team who I would be working alongside that morning. For those of you who don't know we now have a medical devices library that's been open for about 2 years headed up by Gary and supported by Julie and Adam.

med devices The main purpose of the library is to store vital electrical equipment ensuring it's clean, fully charged, fit for purpose and available to be loaned to whichever ward or department requires it. The idea of the library came about after we had some difficulties with equipment being borrowed from wards and not returned and so staff were wasting time and effort in trying to find equipment for patients and then discovering it needed to be cleaned or charged up before it could be used. What happens now is the ward rings the library to request an item, it is tracked out to them and the library staff take the item to the ward - when it's finished with it is wiped clean and returned to the designated storage area on the ward ready to be returned to the library. I went with Julie on the rounds (they go twice a day) to each ward where we checked devices stock levels and topped them up, removed devices that needed checking by the library staff and ensured that each area had enough equipment. The current practice is that the ward staff clean the device before putting it back on the ward shelf for the library staff to return to the library for a full spit and polish (they don't really do that but you know what I mean!) They do a really thorough job with cotton buds and toothbrushes to make sure they get into all the nooks and crannies. Some of these devices have lots of grooves and areas that can be difficult to clean so although the ward staff do a great job cleaning the main components it can be difficult to get into those tiny cracks and crevices which is where the library staff come in! That was one of my jobs for the morning and I was really surprised how mucky the outside of these devices get - but I got stuck in and scrubbed them into submission! Gary gave me lots of detail about the tests they use to check if equipment is as clean as they think it is ...the sort of things that you can't see with the naked eye. I did make copious notes but got lost around adenozine triphosperates - I hope Gary will forgive me! Suffice to say that before cleaning the numbers were high and after cleaning the numbers were very low. That's a good thing I am told!
The team is incredibly enthusiastic about the work they do and they are very keen to make sure everyone uses the library to its full potential - if you're reading this and you do have medical devices do please make sure you use it. It's a great resource and exists to help you provide the right care to our patients by having the right equipment ready and waiting to go when you need it.

The second part of my visit was to the Medical Engineering department at RPH where Daron showed me round, I met Maria who inputs everything into the database and the men (there were no women) who service the equipment. Med engineering

There are about 25 WTE medical engineers who process 20,000 pieces of equipment on site every year. All equipment comes through this department to be recorded, tested and stickers put on before it's let loose on the wards or departments. The department is ISO 9001 accredited which means they are working to national standards. It's an interesting room ...all the desks are full of toolkits and bits of equipment and computers ...everyone was really busy but it was very quiet! Unfortunately they decided they couldn't take the risk of letting me loose on patient equipment (I have no idea why - when I was a student I repaired a washing machine with a bike spanner and a kitchen knife!) so I just chatted to people instead. Many people have worked there for a long time and were so positive and committed, there were a couple of staff who felt that too many changes had occurred over recent years and it was time to retire ...it's hard to balance these things sometimes. Everyone had a commitment to ensuring value for money and could tell me stories ...for example one engineer noted that some of the parts for pulse oxymeters cost £200 but staff on wards/departments throw them away in error, They continually seek to save money and recently discovered they could save £120 per tube simply by switching suppliers - don't ask me what they were for, it was becoming technical at this point!

Daron showed me the quality objectives that the Medical Engineering Department has established - the aim is to improve the service to the customers, benefit the organisation and increase productivity. So they aim for appraisal rates above 90%, sickness rates in line with the Trust target of 3%, mandatory training attendance above 90%, response time for equipment breakdowns 90% within 1 working day and planned maintenance completion 90% over a rolling 12 months. These are displayed on the notice board for everyone to see and they are exceeding nearly all of these!

Two great visits in one and I really enjoyed them. I learned such a lot from both departments and I am grateful to everyone for being so helpful and showing such patience (restraint?!)with my constant barrage of questions!

Many thanks for allowing me to be a part of your team for a day.