Meet Kelly Swartzmiller: Clinical Engineer at Materialise USA
Based in the Materialise office in Plymouth, USA, Kelly Swartzmiller recently sat down with us for a chat about the exciting world of clinical engineering. As a member of the Medical team, she regularly comes into contact with orthopaedic surgeons who need complicated and patient-specific anatomical models or surgical guides for the operations they perform. Over the years, Materialise technology has helped a young champion windsurfer get back on the waves, a Swedish teenager to regain her capacity to walk and a seven-year old to regain functionality in his arm. If all that has made you curious about working as a clinical engineer, hear about it from Kelly herself down below.
What does a standard case look like for you?
My work involves processing a case from start to finish, and making sure that all the steps - from the initial imaging of the patient to the actual surgical procedure - go as planned. It's not always in front of a computer: for instance, it could involve making sure the patients stand correctly, so that we have accurate scans or medical images, since that's the base from which we will create a 3D virtual model and eventually physical 3D-printed anatomical replicas or surgical guides. Then I review the guides before they are printed. I also work to make sure that the production of the medical prints goes smoothly, and that the products arrive correctly and on time for surgery. Sometimes Kelly even gets to be present during the operations, allowing her to see the results of her work first-hand!
That sounds like a lot of people-coordination! What groups of people do you work with the most?
It really is! I reach out to hospitals and communicate with surgeons, to discuss their cases and see which ones would most benefit from our work. Then I sit down with surgeons to actually plan the case and eventually design the guides. That also takes a lot of communication internally within Materialise. I'm always in touch with conversion engineers at Materialise Malaysia, for example, to design models or guides and send them to production. The biggest part of my job is planning a case with surgeons.
You must have worked on cases that made a real difference in patients' lives. Does any particular one stick out in your memory?
It is always very touching and gratifying to know when my work has made a difference for a person's daily life, whether it’s helping a patient regain the ability to write or type, or eliminating the pain they feel when doing these tasks. These experiences are special, because for many cases as clinical engineers we are relatively removed from the patient. We interact with their surgeons, but it's not always possible to connect the work we do with the patients' human reality. That's why I really appreciate knowing what obstacles a patient was able to overcome through our work.
How would you describe your job at Materialise?
To describe it very briefly, it's never monotonous! I actually started out as a Customer Service Engineer and transferred to my current role as a Clinical Engineer in August 2013. I've definitely seen Materialise evolve over the three and a half years since I started working here, but the constant factor is that there are so many intelligent individuals to work with and mutually learn from. There are also the occasional out-of-office fun activities: with my colleagues, we've done painting projects, gone go-karting, and taken a cooking class together. As for my work itself, it affords me a lot of independence: but it also means a lot of responsibility.
Interested in a career as a clinical engineer at Materialise? Well, you’re in luck, as we’re hiring right now! Take a look at the vacancy description here (http://www.materialise.com/careers/clinical-engineer-2), and simply fill in the online application form. If clinical engineering isn’t your thing, but you still want to work for a vibrant, innovative company committed to making a difference, then Materialise might just be the fit for you. Check out our other vacancies here (http://www.materialise.com/careers-overview).