AAMI News September 2017

Biomed Breaks the Mold by Working for Veterinary Practice

Rick TrexlerThe patients at the healthcare facilities where Rick Trexler, CBET, works tend to be rather furry, are prone to pacing, and have been known to bark or purr on occasion.

Trexler, you might say, is a rare breed: He’s a healthcare technology management (HTM) professional who works for a veterinary practice.

“Less a couple of ‘sabbaticals,’ I’ve been working in veterinary medicine since 1985, my senior year of high school. I am a registered veterinary technician, which is the equivalent of a registered nurse on the human medical side,” said Trexler, who is the equipment and facilities manager at BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Kansas City, MO. “The bulk of my career has been in canine and feline medicine, but I have also worked in the aviculture department of Sea World with penguins, alcids, waterfowl, and parrots; with other wildlife; and for a short time in large animal medicine.”

A Lone Wolf in Search of a Pack

After taking on HTM duties for BluePearl’s three Kansas City-area facilities full time, Trexler went back to school to earn a degree in electronics, which included a three-month internship servicing infusion pumps. But it is his background in veterinary medicine that Trexler credits for helping him understand the needs of the practice’s four-legged patients and their healthcare providers. This is also what sets him apart from his HTM peers.

“To my knowledge, Kansas City is the only area with an in-house biomed shop,” Trexler said. “This isolation without peers has been one of my biggest challenges. I joined the local biomedical association a few years back, which has been helpful, but I still find that a lot of my fellow biomeds can’t relate to my work environment.”

Neither can many of his vendors.

“In the past, some of the vendor-based technical support personnel would automatically try to ‘dumb things down’ for me when they heard the word veterinary. I don’t get that as much now when I introduce myself as a BMET,” said Trexler, who earned his CBET credential this past May.

Facing Unique Challenges

Veterinary Equipment
The equipment used to diagnose, monitor, and treat veterinary patients is similar to that found in human hospitals.

According to Trexler, although the patients he serves might be furrier, the equipment he oversees is not all that different from what is found in human hospitals—albeit older in many cases.

“There are very few instruments designed from the ground up with the veterinary patient in mind. For example, most patient monitors sold as veterinary units are simply relabeled, sometimes with a slight modification such as a higher cap on the heart rate,” Trexler said.

Using equipment designed with human patients in mind on sick and injured pets presents some unique challenges.

“Our patients tend to nervously circle a run as opposed to lying stationary on their backs in a hospital bed; as a result, occlusion alarms on infusion pumps tend to go off frequently in the absence of an occlusion, even at their least sensitive setting,” Trexler explained. “Finding service providers who are willing to adjust these out of spec for our needs can be a challenge.”

Even procurement can lead to uncertainty, as the Food and Drug Administration does not require premarket approval of devices sold on the veterinary market.

“This serves as a double-edged sword for us,” Trexler said. “In some cases, it allows us to get technology ahead of our human counterparts. However, it also leaves the veterinary market vulnerable to equipment that would never receive approval for human patients. For example, there were some veterinary-labeled infusion pumps imported a few years ago that were catching on fire.”

Despite these challenges, Trexler remains passionate about being an HTM professional and sees a growing need for others with his unique skillset. “As veterinary medicine continues to evolve and larger, more specialized facilities such as ours become more commonplace, I see a need for in-house shops that can service the large amounts of medical technology not found in the traditional general practice,” he said.