(WACO) – Deborah Thomas knew she wanted a career change.
Thomas, 45, of Houston, had been in law enforcement for 15 years in Central Texas and was working at the Texas Department of Public Safety in 2004 when relatives encouraged her to look into the health care field.
“Initially I wanted to do something that would not require me to go back to a four-year college,” Thomas said.
She looked online at Texas State Technical College and found a subject that she was curious about: Biomedical Equipment Technology.
“Just the thought of working on equipment sounded interesting and something that I had not done before,” Thomas said.
Thomas graduated from TSTC in Waco in 2006 with an associate degree in Biomedical Equipment Technology.
“I would encourage women in the program to stay the course because women are very much needed in this field,” she said. “There are women’s facilities, women’s surgery centers and specific kinds of women’s services that a woman feels comfortable with another woman walking into the room.”
The degree eventually led her to her present position as an area manager for Santa Ana, Calif-based Renovo Solutions, a nationwide company contracting with health care systems to manage medical equipment. Thomas manages accounts for five hospitals in Houston, Paris, Port Arthur, San Antonio and Monroe, La.
“One of the things I loved when I was a technician was having that one-on-one with patients, hospital staff and families and to be able to provide that kind of help,” Thomas said. “I love to be able to go into a room and help everybody. Now, I am helping the hospitals save money and run more efficiently.”
Thomas said she has seen a trend of robotics growing more in the medical field, particularly in surgeries, radiology and oncology. She said as new equipment is developed she has continually studied to meet the needs of her account holders.
Thomas was born in Corsicana and moved to Hewitt with her family when she was in elementary school. She graduated in 1989 from Midway High School in Waco. She began work as a dispatcher with the Robinson Police Department after graduation.
She said when she began at TSTC she had an easy rapport with her instructors because they were closer to her age. She cited Garrett Seeley, assistant department chair in Biomedical Equipment Technology, as one of her mentors.
Seeley said tenacity and dedication set Thomas apart from other students.
“There was a lot riding on her success,” Seeley said. “She wanted to make a change for her children.”
Thomas did an internship at Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest Medical Center in Waco.
“The internship is one of the most important things to go through,” she said. “Work on as much equipment as possible. I have hired numerous interns from TSTC. You can train them yourself. The equipment they work on in school is similar to what they will see when they come out.”
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, there were more than 42,000 biomedical equipment repair jobs nationwide as of 2012. The number is expected to grow by 30 percent up to 2022. The median pay was $44,570 nationally for biomedical equipment technology graduates in 2012, the most recent figures available from the labor department.
Students interested in studying Biomedical Equipment Technology can pursue associate degrees at TSTC campuses in Harlingen, Marshall and Waco. Students can also earn an Enhanced Skills Certificate in Medical Imaging Specialization in Waco.