“When you say that you’re an engineer some people say ‘really?’ or they look at how you look physically and say ‘can you really be an engineer?’”
Those are words from Nziza Pachal Rufutu, a 28-year-old woman working as a biomedical engineering equipment technician at Bugando Medical Centre (Bugando) in Mwanza, Tanzania. She is responsible for installing medical equipment and performing preventive maintenance and repairs at one of the largest and most specialized hospitals in the country. Nziza’s role is critical in ensuring equipment is functioning properly so that the hospital can provide quality healthcare services.
From a young age, Nziza excelled in science classes. After finishing her A-levels (similar to the Advanced Placement programs in the US), Nziza considered a career in engineering. Her brother, who was at University studying to become an engineer himself, introduced her to the field of biomedical engineering. She realized that this field would allow her to link her interests in biology and medicine with engineering principles to help others.
Upon graduating, Nziza applied for a job at Bugando and has worked there since 2016. Nziza oversees the engineering side of the sterilization department at Bugando and, together with other engineers, works closely with the operating theatres to ensure that all equipment is in good working condition for surgeries. She explained that “Engineers provide oxygen and other medical equipment services in operating theaters. If the equipment performance is poor, then the doctors and other medical personnel can’t provide good healthcare services to the patients.”
One of her primary challenges working in the male-dominated field of engineering is others’ perceptions of herself and her capabilities. “They may undergrade you and think you can’t do more like men do. So maybe there are some tasks that you are not sent to do because they think you cannot do it.” Reflecting on this issue, Nziza added “they just don’t understand that it’s only a matter of hard work and having knowledge and skills, a committed mind, and a desire to learn more.”
Nziza embodies these attributes, and has been committed to improving Bugando since she first joined the hospital. For example, she worked with the engineering department and the Touch team to provide guidance on the equipment needed to enhance cardiology services at the hospital. After this initial project with Touch, Nziza began working with Touch’s Healthcare Technology Management team in May.
Through the Healthcare Technology Management program, Nziza has taken on the role of Key Performance Indicator (KPI) Champion at Bugando. If measured on a regular basis, KPIs can help engineers understand when large machines are not functioning as intended. In her role as a KPI Champion, Nziza connects with her colleagues stationed at Bugando’s large machines (i.e. Oxygen Plants, Generator, Incinerator), and monitors the KPIs for each machine. This allows her to respond immediately to any issues, before equipment downtime can affect the quality of care at the hospital.
According to Nziza, “the Healthcare Technology Management program has improved the skills of the engineers as well as working facilities, and other people in the hospital have begun to see the importance of the engineering department and that we are critical to the hospital functioning well. They see that when equipment is improved, people are provided with better services.”
Moving forward, Nziza wants to focus on skills training for the engineering department as well as equipment training for all healthcare workers at the hospital. She is proud to be a leader in our Healthcare Technology Management program and work together with other biomedical engineers to provide better healthcare services day-to-day to Bugando’s patients. After all, the hospital can’t function without equipment that is well maintained.