For this edition of ‘A Day in the Life’, we spoke with Caitlin Thomas of Field Orthopaedics to find out what a typical day in her life as an Biomedical Engineer looks like.
I finally peel my eyes open after snoozing my alarm at least twice; I’m not a morning person, let alone when it’s winter and a Tuesday. After savouring a few more minutes of warmth, I sit up and check for emails that may have come through overnight from overseas contractors. We’re waiting for confirmation from a test house in the USA regarding verification and validation testing of a new product range; nothing has come through, so I make a mental note to ask my colleagues if they received anything. I hop up and get dressed, wash my face, and start organising myself for the day ahead.
My boyfriend arrives home from an overnight shift and is kind enough to make me a double-shot coffee to get the neurons firing; just the smell of a tasty dark roast is enough to make me feel more awake! After a quick catch up about his night I head off to work. I usually catch the bus but I have an event after work so I’m running the gauntlet with traffic and decide to drive. As I quickly find out, so did everyone else. Ironically, as I slowly crawl along, I hear on Triple J that a study has shown commute times have increased by 20 % since 2002, with an average of 4.5 hours each week spent getting to and from work. It doesn’t sound far off…
At my desk and settled in with a fresh glass of water and the remnants of my coffee, I spend 20 minutes planning out what the day’s priorities will be. We work in an incredibly fast-paced and dynamic environment, so priorities can dramatically change with little notice. I find it effective to take stock of what I completed the day before, what is outstanding, and if there is anything else that needs to be on my radar. Never underestimate the power of a to-do list!
To round off tasks from yesterday I tidy up a design procedure flow I’ve been working on and send it off to our CTO to review when she has time.
The technical team is usually sitting in the meeting room ready for scrum at 9 o’clock on the dot, but we’re trying something new at the moment with alternating days for different teams and today it’s the operations team. Instead, I discuss the day’s priorities and coordinate with Sha, my direct supervisor. We use a “KANBAN” board to allocate time for tasks and to monitor our workload across the week. This week is no different to any other and is shaping up to be a busy one with the key focus remaining on completion of technical documents in preparation for further market releases.
Myself and the CTO meet with a final year mechanical engineering student from a local university to discuss her thesis project. As the intern mentor and academic liaison, it is part of my role to assist students organising their projects, field any queries they have, and generally trying to make them feel welcome. As I completed my project and degree within the last 18 months, I can provide a useful translation of the company’s expectations and deliverables to what the university is looking for.
Tea time! We have many a tea lover at Field Orthopaedics, so I never have a shortage of delicious options to choose from. Today is an Earl Grey kind of day.
I spend the rest of my morning finishing the compilation of risk management documents to prepare for correspondence with our Risk Review Committee and subject matter experts (SMEs) regarding a design change. The priority is to ensure our technical documentation is up to date, testing is planned, and the SMEs have time to assess if the design presents an acceptable level of risk from their perspective based on relevant expertise before it is released for clinical use.
I head down to one of my favourite little cafés to grab lunch with two of my friends from uni, Annie and Rob. Although we studied the same course, we all took different paths after graduating so it’s great to hear what they’re up to. Rob co-founded a start-up while studying and Annie is working part-time for one but considering post-graduate studies, so we spend lunch talking through mouthfuls of mammoth burgers about the different options. It makes a difference having people in your close circle that can relate to the unique challenges working for a start-up presents. We’re all under the pump at the moment but loving the exposure to multiple areas of practice.
I return full and happy to start drafting the email summarising my assessment of risk from this morning and finalise the supporting documents. I take my time checking the method of verification I have identified against each line of our risk assessment and check the failure modes and design controls identified by my colleague before sending it out to the relevant parties. I take a quick tea break after an hour and have a cheeky scroll through Instagram while I wait for my earl grey to brew, then get back to it.
Later in the week we have a visit planned with one of our design surgeons and his theatre staff to discuss design considerations as we move to expand our product offering. I am spending the next hour preparing questions aimed at closing off gaps we have in our knowledge. Our company works closely with surgeons to refine concepts and designs but take every opportunity to hear the insights of other end users like the theatre nurses and sterilisation staff who interact with the equipment. They provide valuable contributions and context that we as engineers can implement into the design of identification, packaging, and layouts.
Most days I would be heading home by now, but tonight I’m off to a networking trivia event hosted by the medical engineering student society at my old university. I was the president in 2017, so it’s lovely being invited to attend events as a member of industry and see how far the club has progressed! I’m fortunate to have a team of fun and passionate undergraduate medical engineers carry us over line to fourth place. It’s not first, but it’s also not last -thanks Alex, Sophie, Lauren, and Liv!
After a long day I’m finally home around 9:30. Usually I would spend the next 30 minutes chatting with my housemates or boyfriend about the day, but everyone is asleep or at work so I’m straight into the shower and getting ready for bed. After creating a blanket burrito for myself, I have a final scroll of social media and emails, and my head finally hits the pillow at 11 pm.