Hawke’s Bay clinical engineer told girls not to do electrical engineering

Ashlea Morris, newest member of the Hawke’s Bay DHB clinical engineering team, has achieved her full registration, stands outside the Hawke’s Bay Fallen Soldiers Memorial Hospital. Photo / Provided

A young clinical engineering technician makes leaps into the male-led field.

The 24-year-old just got her electrical registration at Hawke’s Bay Fallen Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital.

Originally from Auckland, Ashlea Morris loves problem solving and all things tech and has even been appointed mid-level electrical manager.

Engineering was therefore a natural choice.

When Morris sat down to enroll in graduate school in electrical engineering, a course adviser suggested she switch to civil engineering because: “Girls don’t do electrical engineering.”

Now Morris is a clinical engineering technician at Hastings and is advocating for more people to pursue their careers.

She said, looking back, it’s lucky she ignored that advice.

With determination, she obtained her degree in clinical engineering at the Manukau Institute of Technology in Auckland.

In 2019, the graduate moved to Hawke’s Bay to begin working full time as an intern at Hawke’s Bay Hospital.

Medical equipment testing forms the bulk of Moriss’ role at Hawke’s Bay DHB.

Legally, hospital medical equipment must be tested annually to ensure that it is safe and poses no risk to the patient when using it.

The new technician’s job also includes diagnosing and repairing equipment problems and assisting with the purchase of new equipment. A typical day might be spent in the wards, at his office, or visiting patients.

Ashlea Morris, a clinical engineering technician with the Hawke's Bay District Health Board, studies an ECG machine that was sent to her team for repair.  Photo / Provided
Ashlea Morris, a clinical engineering technician with the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board, studies an ECG machine that was sent to her team for repair. Photo / Provided

“I don’t know many other girls my age who enjoy their jobs as much as I do,” Morris said.

She explained that not many women become clinical engineers, so naturally she became an advocate for more women to sue him.

Upon completing his internship at Middlemore, Morris realized that only two of the 25 engineers were women.

The importance of clinical engineering caught his attention after he witnessed a presentation by a clinical engineering officer from Manukau Counties DHB on the need for more graduates.

“Before, I didn’t even know the quarry existed,” Morris said.

During her first year of her degree, she was the only student studying clinical engineering, with only two behind me and maybe three ahead of her.

Due to a lack of applicants, tertiary courses in clinical engineering are hard to come by now.

Morris said those interested in the career should study electronics and information technology.

“A lot of people in my role started out doing electronics and found their way here,” she said.

“Resilience is crucial for the role.

“Hospital equipment can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, which means that if major equipment breaks down, there are often no spares.

Clinical engineers work in real-time patient environments, constantly focusing on regular maintenance and quickly dealing with repairs.

Steyn Van Der Spuy, head of clinical engineering at DHB, said it was great to help Morris get his full registration.

He added that the young engineer is an example of one of the many training opportunities DHB offers to help people pursue careers in the healthcare industry.

Like many healthcare careers, clinical engineering is an aging workforce and in desperate need of more graduates, the director of clinical engineering said.

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