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Profiles Of Scientists And Engineers: Systems And Industrial Engineers

10 minutes

(Describer) Scenes in a hospital are shown.

The amount of supplies on the shelves...

(man) There's so much happening here. It's-- it's go, go, go, go.

(woman) Proactively, we look ahead.

(man) The different pieces of a system are so interconnected.

(Describer) Title: Quote: The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. - Aristotle.

(female narrator) Tom Rust is a systems engineer. Ashley Benedict is an industrial engineer. Together, they're working to improve the nation's health. I work for the New England VERC.

(Describer) Ashley:

(Tom Rust) The VERC, the Veteran's Engineering Resource Center,

(Describer) Tom:

is a group of systems engineers and industrial engineers who all work to bring systems engineering methods into hospitals.

(narrator) Whether its healthcare, fabric care, making cars, or even building the International Space Station, systems and industrial engineers create and improve workflow. Systems and industrial engineering is the study of how different system components-- that could be machines, it could be people, it could be resources-- how those different pieces all fit together to produce the result that you're seeing.

(Ashley Benedict) If I can create a system that skims off time so a physician could spend more time with patients, then I'm making a difference.

(Rust) I've only been working in hospitals for two years, and it's amazing.

(Describer) A man speaks with them.

(narrator) From the supply room to the operating room, Tom and Ashley analyze how different aspects of the hospital function. They create strategies for improvement, which lower costs and result in better medical care for the patients they serve. In some cases, their work helps save lives.

(Describer) Doctors speak with Tom in a hall.

(Rust) You have to go to the place where the work is being done. You really have to observe by yourself.

(Describer) Tom and Ashley stand with others around a bed.

(narrator) VERC is designing a training program, a simulation where doctors can practice central line insertion. It's a procedure that enables a doctor or nurse to administer medicine and obtain diagnostic information.

(Benedict) If you ask a resident,

(Describer) Ashley:

"Have you put in a central line?" Most likely they're gonna say they've done it. The problem is every hospital does it differently. We're trying to minimize that variability, and we've created a process where the resident can use a human simulator and can get comfortable with the supplies available, the equipment that's available.

(Describer) They use a model.

(narrator) Reducing the variability of the central line procedure saves valuable time for the medical team and decreases the risk of infection to the patient.

(Describer) A colleague hands out papers.

Here's the course manual that we'd like to review and get your opinion.

(Describer) In his office, Tom:

I spend some time at my desk building computer simulation models and talking to my co-workers about how the modeling will go, what are important parameters for consideration, what are the model boundaries gonna be? We often go on in-patient rounds with the attending doctors and their residents to get a sense of things. We contacted IR for tissue sampling today,

(Describer) The group in the hall confers.

and also we had an order placed for a TTE.

(Describer) One of the doctors:

(male) We've worked with systems engineers to improve care. For example, our daily routine morning lab blood work only came back late in the afternoon. This would delay all kinds of clinical care and systems issues like late discharges and so on.

(Describer) Tom:

After we built our model, came up with our optimal policy, we found we needed fewer people drawing blood. They could, with this optimal route, start later, spend less time doing the work, let patients sleep longer, and we had a higher reliability of getting all the data to the docs when needed. Today, 78 percent neutrophils. Got the fever, but his white count overall...? It's coming down, yeah.

(male) Now 90 percent of the labs return by 9:00 a.m. That's made a difference in our clinical care. We make quicker decisions, we make the right decisions.

(Describer) Someone works in an car test facility.

(narrator) Systems engineers find ways to make every component of a complex system work together better. They manage large projects and help organizations figure out where there's room for improvement. Industrial engineers develop strategies to make things happen better and more efficiently. From hospitals to transportation systems, to communications, an industrial engineer can improve the way we do just about anything.

(Describer) Ashley:

My background is more human factors-- looking at how humans interact with technologies...

(female computer voice) Please open door for TUG.

(Describer) A hospital worker opens a door for a large box-shaped robot.

...other people, the environment. There's simulations, operations, facility layout, supply chain management, operations research.

(Describer) Other work scenes are shown.

(narrator) You'll find industrial and system engineers in both the private and public sector.

(Describer) Tom:

Because the world is so complicated, everything really is part of a system. So you could work in a hospital, you could work in a manufacturing site, you could work for the government, you could work, basically, anywhere where groups of people get together to try and produce something.

(Describer) Ashley:

That's what's so great about industrial and systems engineering. You're not pigeonholed into one specific thing.

(Describer) Tom walks down a hospital hall.

(narrator) Tom works with the V.A. Compensation and Pension Service, or C & P.

(Describer) A man speaks with him.

The turnaround time on exams has to have decreased because...

(narrator) They expedite medical coverage benefits for disabled veterans recently discharged by the military. V.A. hospitals provide about 800,000 C & P disability exams each year.

(Describer) Wheelchairs and walkers are used.

In spite of increased demand, systems engineering methods are helping reduce exam wait time.

(Describer) Graphs show demand for clinic hours.

When I started here, the wait time for an appointment was over 50 days. Now in the V.A., after we've done the research and had some of our policy recommendations implemented, it's now under seven days. It's a fabulous system. I've been espousing it to other C & P directors. Oh, okay. Connecticut's interested in it. It cuts down traffic so much from regional office to here.

(Describer) A man wheels down a hall.

(Rust) It's pretty amazing to think that there are tens of thousands of people now that don't have to wait for care because of something that I've done, or we, as systems engineers have done.

(Describer) A worker picks up supplies.

(narrator) Supplies and equipment inventories are an essential part of any healthcare provider's system. Hospital managers need to know how much to order, when to order, and what to order.

(Describer) Ashley:

We're working on an inventory project with the operating room, and they have supplies within the operating room. They also have supplies outside of the operating room, in a location with an array of supplies, and it's far away from the operating rooms.

(Describer) A worker wearing scrubs turns corners and goes through a door. With her...

[chattering]

If Jen's not here and I have someone who's not familiar with the words we're using, then I tell them to get a Comfy catheter that looks like 12 or 13 others hanging next each other, and the right one doesn't come back, that's where engineering helps.

(Describer) Ashley nods.

(narrator) Systems and industrial engineers often have a bachelor of science degree in industrial, mechanical, or electrical engineering. What I like most about industrial and systems engineering is the people aspect.

(Describer) Tom and Ashley walk outside.

(Rust) Boston is such a big, small town. I love how many activities there are and sights to see. You can bike across town in an hour.

(Describer) Tom rides his bike toward the hospital. Inside, a worker prints a label.

We know how to do all this exciting new stuff...

(Describer) A lab worker speaks with Tom. Another robot with drawers rolls away from two others.

(female computer voice) Backing up. Please stand aside.

(Rust) How do all these new things fit together?

(Describer) The doctor:

We've always recognized there were systems problems, but these guys came in with a fresh perspective. They say what's broken and how we could fix it. We're like, "Oh, there a solution." You see those ah-ha moments.

(Describer) Ashley types at her computer.

(Benedict) I could optimize and show somebody in numbers, and they'd go, "Big deal. You're showing me numbers, who cares?" But if you show them a simulation, they get it. And they can say, "Wow, okay. I see why we need to fix this area."

(Describer) She wears protective clothing as she speaks with the surgery workers. Tom:

[chattering]

It's so great to be able to see your work's impact, to physically go down and talk to a veteran or a patient and see how their life's been changed by the fact that the system they're in works for them.

(Describer) He walks with the lab worker, Ashley watches a woman work at a computer and a surgery worker carry supplies. Tom walks outside with Ashley and other people. A surgeon gives a thumbs-up.

(Describer) Title: Produced by Post Modern Company for the National Science Foundation.

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Systems engineer, Tom Rust, and industrial engineer, Ashley Benedict, work together to create and improve workflow efficiency within hospitals. They accomplish this by bringing systems engineering methods to hospital operations.

Media Details

Runtime: 10 minutes

Profiles Of Scientists And Engineers
Episode 1
10 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Profiles Of Scientists And Engineers
Episode 2
6 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Profiles Of Scientists And Engineers
Episode 3
7 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Profiles Of Scientists And Engineers
Episode 4
6 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Profiles Of Scientists And Engineers
Episode 5
8 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Profiles Of Scientists And Engineers
Episode 6
6 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Profiles Of Scientists And Engineers
Episode 7
8 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Profiles Of Scientists And Engineers
Episode 8
7 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Profiles Of Scientists And Engineers
Episode 9
8 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Profiles Of Scientists And Engineers
Episode 10
7 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12