My name is Michaella Wiltshire and my job title is Equipment Library Technician [laugh].
The day to day of our job is to make sure that we’ve got enough equipment for the general hospital to use. If you watch Casualty and Holby City, things like that, people always think: it’s all doctors and nurses. But there is always equipment people in the background. And the reason that is in good working order is because of our department.
I really enjoy Physics in school, but I didn’t finish my A-Levels so I wasn’t sure where to go next. I hadn’t heard of Medical Engineering and Physics before; not many people do until they’re told about it. But this opportunity came up as an Apprenticeship, and I got into it, and it was a nice pairing of working with people, helping patients, and making a difference in people’s lives, but also I get to do function testing, I get to work in the physics field and I get to play with equipment on the technical side so I’m enjoying what I enjoyed at school, but also actually being in a work environment and helping people as well.
So a normal working day for me would be: I would come in, get my trolley and go around the wards and pick up all the equipment that’s been used from the day before. We’ll clean it and test it to make sure that it’s clean and there are no infections that could be passed on to the next patient. People have very interesting ways of breaking equipment; it can be thrown, it can be dropped, we’ve had equipment come down that you just couldn’t recognise what it was. So again, we have to deal with that too. People get very creative when it comes to breaking the equipment [laugh].
If we have what we call a major incident, so something’s happened in the area, that means a lot of patients coming in at once: major disasters, traffic accidents with more than one car, we get a lot of those because we’re a major trauma centre everyone comes here. So it gets very busy. So if we do have an incident, where a lot of people come in at once, you find a lot of equipment needs to be used because each person might need 3 or 4 different pumps and monitors and stuff like that.
So you can come in on a Monday when there has been an incident over the weekend and there is nothing left. You have to learn very quickly and think on your feet as well, sometimes the engineer is busy, sometimes the front room is packed with people and you have to problem-solve on your own. Again that’s something you can develop, but you need to keep calm in tense situations and it happens quite a lot; you can’t lose your head over it. You also should probably be okay with blood; it’s seen everywhere, so it’s one of those things that’s just part of the job.
I came in for an apprenticeship. I was paid – it wasn’t an awful lot, but it’s something! And then, from there you can just go where you want; so that’d be put off if you don’t want to go to university or you don’t get the grades, you can start the apprenticeship and GCSEs upwards; and for me I just did 16 upwards. So there are different routes if you look into it and I think that’s the best advice I could give.
When I started my training scheme, I did an apprentice to start with; I was on rotation, so I did 6 months in operating theatres. I’ve seen open-heart surgery, brain surgery, I’ve seen several amputations as well. I found it really interesting. Some people might find it a bit gross, but I thought it was really cool.
A few words from Michaella ...
In both my roles in Theatres and Medical Engineering, my role has been about looking after medical equipment. I have learnt about the importance of all of the equipment we use, and why it is necessary to keep it well maintained. While in operating theatres, my job was to maintain and repair the equipment used in surgery, and this was not always convenient. Sometimes, the equipment would show faults while attached to a patient that was on the operating table, and we had to see if we could find a solution then and there. It was very fast paced, but you are constantly learning.
Exciting aspects of Michaella's job
I have been able to watch some amazing surgery, including open heart surgery and amputations - not something you'd expect to see every day!
I know that the work I do contributes to the care of patients. It's great to know that you're helping real people.
No two days are the same, depending on what happens, I can be doing anything from stock control to fixing an anaesthetic machine while it's being used.
I come into contact with so many different people, all with a different story and with new things that they can teach you.
The job is very practical, you learn while you work. Sometimes you get thrown into a situation and you have to problem solve, it's very stimulating and keeps you busy!
Going into a role like this I didn't quite know what to expect – especially in operating theatres and the emergency department. You need to be quite flexible and good with people – especially when under pressure. You also need to be okay with the sight of blood as it happens fairly often!
- Minimum of 5 A*-C GCSE grades or equivalent