Leading with Purpose: Emily Bonazelli’s Marathon Mindset in HTM

“In the midst of an ordinary training day, I try to remind myself that I am preparing for the extraordinary.” – Shalane Flanagan, American long-distance runner and Olympic medalist

We had the honor of interviewing Emily Bonazelli, Manager of Clinical Engineering at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA. We were wowed not only by her drive and ambition when it comes to her leadership of a team of 16 in a male-dominated field, but also by her athletic ability as a 15-time marathon runner.

Emily Bonazelli and her two counterparts lead a team that is primarily responsible for all of Baystate Medical Center’s medical equipment. Specifically, she manages the entire lifecycle of equipment which involves anything from determining whether or not a piece of equipment is a good fit for the organization, making purchasing decisions, maintenance, and retiring equipment at the end of its lifecycle. Emily’s team also works closely with clinical teams to solve problems related to equipment recalls and workflow management.

Emily has only been in her current role for less than a year, however, she has grown with Baystate Medical Center over the course of 10 years.

How did she get introduced to a career in the male-dominated field of clinical engineering in the first place?

“In high school, I was very good at math and biology. So when I went to college, I decided to get a degree in Biomedical Engineering at Boston University. I did an internship with a medical device manufacturing company working on their patient monitoring system doing verification and validation.”

While Emily appreciated the exposure to the industry, she realized that the manufacturing side of Biomedical Engineering wasn’t the career for her. She changed directions and attended the University of Connecticut’s graduate program in Clinical Engineering. Emily was then selected for the two-year Clinical Engineering Internship program at Baystate Healthcare. Here’s what Emily loved most about her early years at Baystate Health,

“I really enjoyed everything I was learning in the hospital environment. Every day was different because you never knew what type of problem you were going to walk into. I enjoyed seeing the impact of my work firsthand and how it affected the clinicians and the patients. Working in a place where you can see the impact is fulfilling.”

Once she completed her Master’s degree, she was hired onto the team at Baystate Health full-time. Since then, Emily’s career has focused on safety and regulatory compliance for Clinical Engineering. This includes reviewing and updating policies for both the department and the organization when applicable as well as keeping up with the Joint Commission standards. Emily is also involved in recall management, updating equipment management plans, and integrating devices with electronic medical records (EMR). She assists the Children’s Hospital and Women’s Health with their equipment needs. Emily also supported the implementation of the Real-Time Locating System (RTLS), Baystate Health’s equipment locating.

Changes in Technology Over the Years

Now after 10 years of working at Baystate Medical, not only does Emily manage Clinical Engineering, but she also gets to mentor interns from her graduate alma mater, the University of Connecticut. Many of her interns happen to also be women.

During Emily’s tenure with Baystate, she was most excited about witnessing the integration of medical equipment with the hospital network. Emily says,

“Whether it’s the independent server application where it stores and pulls data, or whether it’s connected to the EMR… the amount of devices we have online has increased rapidly in the past 10 years. There are a lot of workflows that we can make safer once they’re integrated with the EMR. We definitely have a lot of work to do. But it’s definitely something that we’re aware of. And it’s definitely something we take into consideration when we’re looking at new technology.”

Emily is also excited about how Baystate has integrated Asimily tools into its other security tools.

“We have successfully integrated Asimily with our CMMS system. This allows us to have up-to-date network information in one location with the rest of our maintenance information. Having this information available has been very helpful when troubleshooting networking issues with our networking partners.”

The Value of Clinical Engineering at Baystate Medical Center

When asked if Emily has the opportunity to interact with patient care staff, Emily has this to say,

“Actually I sit in on a hospital-wide meeting daily with nurses, nursing directors, physician leaders. It’s a 15-minute meeting where I get the status quo of the hospital for the day. The staff can report any problems related to equipment. I will send it out to the appropriate person to get it resolved.”

“I also sit in on a daily Children’s Hospital meeting with all of the nursing managers of all the units of our Children’s Hospital. We touch base on the patient population for the day, what the needs are, and what the challenges are. And if there’s anything related to equipment, then I step in with my team and resolve it. So yes, I interact with patient care staff every single day.”

When asked about the value that the clinical engineering team brings to the daily lives of patient care workers, this is what she had to say,

“We have a great Clinical Engineering team. Our nurses know that we are very dependable. And we’re also very comfortable going into the patient room if there’s an issue with a device that can’t leave the room. Our nurses trust us to be able to troubleshoot around a patient when appropriate. And we deliver a high level of service. They trust us. We always have someone on call whom they can page or call directly. We are a 24/7 shop and our response time is great.”

Like many hospitals, Covid was a pivotal time for the clinical engineering staff at Baystate to flex its muscles in support of the patient care staff and patients in need.

“Covid brought out my team’s ability to work together. We were tasked with creating what was essentially an ICU out of our outpatient PACU. It was a big undertaking and we realized quickly that the monitors we had were not going to be good enough for ICU patients. They weren’t able to monitor the correct number of parameters that were needed to monitor ICU patients.”

Emily’s team had to review the entire inventory to see where they could borrow monitors from to help outfit this temporary ICU. They worked with the nursing manager of the NICU department to exchange the three-wave monitors for their five-wave monitors. Fortunately, they were very understanding and willing to make that swap. Emily goes on to explain,

“We were able to get around 40 extra monitors and 40 extra beds for our sickest patients. It took a lot of teamwork between my department, the NICU, the ICU, and the facilities to help set up those beds. We were able to increase our capacity when we had to do it. It was one of the things that I’m most proud of.”

Life Lessons After Running 15 Marathons

Managing a Clinical Engineering team in a hospital during a global pandemic requires a high level of stamina and discipline. When asked about her personal pursuits, it turns out that Emily is deep into ultimate sports.

“I enjoy getting outside. I’m a big runner. I’ve run 15 marathons.”

Emily met her husband playing ultimate frisbee. They now have a one-year-old son.

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