By Joseph J. Panichello
Stuck in a dead-end job? No room for advancement in your BMET department? Do you have strong mechanical skills? Consider transitioning to the imaging service department as a BMET.
According to the latest 24×7 salary and job compensation survey, the average age of respondents was nearly 50 years old. Very soon there will be many BMET positions to fill as more professionals in the industry enter retirement, especially in imaging service. Do you think you might be a fit for this field?
What Imaging Service BMETs Will Learn
There are countless perks of becoming part of an imaging services team. Those who work as a BMET in imaging services will acquire many new skills, including:
- Learn about x-ray radiation: With this knowledge you will be able to work safely around x-ray producing equipment and ultimately make it safe for the radiology staff to operate.
- Get to see x-ray images of interesting anatomy: You’ll work with the latest imaging software used to enhance image quality, and better understand its functionalities for medical imaging.
- Use and understand critical tools: For equipment installation, you will use gantry cranes and high jacks to move and position equipment. You will also use power tools to cut, grind, drill, and mount often heavy equipment components to walls, ceilings, and floors. And, as a bonus, you can apply these skills to tasks outside of your professional life.
- Use special test equipment: You need unique test meters to calibrate, measure, and test imaging equipment outputs. KV and mAs meters, radiation probes, and precision alignment tools are used routinely on the job.
- Reap the benefits of physical activity: X-ray components are large and spread out over an entire room. You’ll be crawling under tables, climbing up ladders, and moving large cabinet covers to perform repairs, all of which will work out the body. All things held constant, you could become healthier just by working in x-ray service.
- Have job security: X-ray units must be tested rigorously by independent radiation physicists. It’s a yearly requirement that if not followed will literally shut down the site. In addition, states require routine preventive maintenance for the facility to remain in compliance. X-ray facilities need x-ray service engineers; you’ll always have a job.
- Earn more money: Once you put in the time and become an experienced X-ray service specialist, your salary will be higher than that of a general BMET 3.
Tips for Becoming an X-ray BMET
If you are indeed ready to make the move to the x-ray servicing field, following are tips on how to prepare for the job, and, subsequently, how to advance in the ranks.
First, educate yourself as much as possible to learn more what the field is about; try to better understand what the field has to offer and what it expects of you. For example, my book, “X-ray Repair, third edition” was specifically written for BMETs entering this field. There are other good sources online, as well.
Next, tag along with a colleague on imaging service calls. Do this whenever you can. Take a close look at the individual equipment components. Observe the ways the engineer communicates with the staff. Get a true feel for the type of work being performed.
From here, if you’ve decided to become an imaging services specialist, look to attend a well-respected imaging services school—your new company may even pay for it. These schools usually provide classroom lectures, as well as hands-on training with actual X-ray equipment. The knowledge you gain will greatly benefit your on-the-job performance.
Next, study equipment design. Focus on the equipment that your company sells and services. Download the manuals, grab a cup of coffee, and spend time reviewing the material. It might sound boring, but it will give you an advantage on repairs. Where is the “Emergency Off” button? How is the system interconnected? Where are the system safety interlocks located? Better educating yourself will help you answer these questions during critical moments of your career.
You must become familiar with x-ray equipment operation. This is crucial to effectively troubleshoot and repair x-ray systems. On service calls you’ll be working alone and will have to do things like move the x-ray tube and align it to the image receptor. And you’ll be taking x-rays, so you should know your way around the x-ray control panel. A good practice is to observe actual x-ray exams as they are performed by the staff. They will appreciate your interest.
Here’s a trick when facing unfamiliar equipment: before performing a service, ask the staff to demonstrate the failure to you. During this observation time, you will see exactly how the equipment is being used on patients, noting the sequence required to take an x-ray. Now you know how to operate the system and may also learn clues about the failure.
Once you identify the problem you’re halfway there; you must fix it! Take your time during repairs. Be methodical, and don’t take shortcuts. Remove all equipment covers and any other components that may be obstructing access to the failing component. Follow a routine and use the same practice whenever disassembling and replacing parts. And always test all modes of operation—even if you did not work on those components—before leaving the site. This is a way to avoid service recalls.
There are so many advantages to working in imaging service, and financial rewards, as well. The guidelines previously outlined will help you to transition to the imaging service field. Do your homework, read up on radiography, study equipment function, and you’ll quickly advance in the field.
Come join the team; we are hiring!
Joseph J. Panichello is author of X-ray Repair, 3rd edition. Questions and comments can be directed to 24×7 chief editor Keri Forsythe-Stephens at [email protected].
To become a competent Imaging Service Engineer from a BMET level takes around 5 years or longer. Now, if you are working on just one modality like CT and not servicing general x-ray, R/F x-ray, C-Arms, Mammo, Ultrasound, Nuc Med, CT, MRI and linear accelerators then that timeframe is reduced drastically but most inhouse x-ray service engineers service all the above mentioned modalities with with a plethora of different vendors, makes and models. Having worked at large hospitals the majority of my 35+ years as an Imaging Service Engineer, I know this from seeing MANY BMETS trying to break into imaging and the vast majority of them failing miserably UNLESS the hospital has patience with a strong supporting imaging engineering staff around him/her in which they can learn.