Michael R. Kauffman, CBET, assistant director of facilities, The Reading Hospital and Medical Center, and Charles “Chuck” Donmoyer, CBET, lead biomedical technician.

A popular book in the mid-1980s maintained that true wisdom could be found in the lessons learned in kindergarten. It seems the tome may have been more than a primer for life. As it turns out, creating a biomed shop around the lessons taught at an early age just might be the recipe for professional success as well. Unfortunately, sneaking in a daily nap isn’t on the list.

Play Nice

“Treat people with respect and everything is a little easier” might be the ultimate golden rule. The biomedical department at The Reading Hospital and Medical Center, Reading, Pa, has spent nearly 3 decades building a reputation through its experienced and qualified techs. Today’s professionals carry on that tradition. Simply put, they know what they are doing, and they do it with a smile.

“Being approachable is very beneficial,” said Charles “Chuck” Donmoyer, CBET, a lead biomedical technician who has worked at The Reading Hospital for more than 20 years.

“I think it’s important for biomeds to get to know people on a personal basis so they are happy to see you, and they don’t think that every time you show up it’s a crisis,” says Michael R. Kauffman, CBET, assistant director of facilities, The Reading Hospital and Medical Center. “By getting to know people on more of a down-to-earth basis, they are more understanding and willing to work with you when you do have to deal with them on critical issues.

“Our reputation is as a group of highly skilled individuals,” Kauffman continues. “Without a doubt, we have some of the best technical skills I’ve ever seen. When nobody else can fix it, they know they can come to us and we can fix anything. And we deliver on that promise.”

From left, Chuck Donmoyer and Gary Eshelman are part of the skilled team at The Reading Hospital and Medical Center that delivers on its promises.

“The talent is definitely consistent here,” concurs Gary Eshelman, biomed technician. “Everybody seems to be very concerned about getting the job done while not interfering with patients. Everybody is very conscientious here, and that makes it a great place to work.”

Kauffman consistently applauds his team, which also includes Larry Rochowicz, Bill Stettler, Ken Bailey, Bruce Komlodi, Cathy Gechter, John Chinnici, Mike Mumaw, John Le, Tim Herr and Joe Emmel.

In addition to delivering on repair promises, the department has also assisted with special projects. One such project involved explaining the world of biomed to junior high and high school students in collaboration with local school programs such as the Medical Explorer Program, which introduces teenagers to possible careers in the medical field.

“I brought about 30 of the students into the shop, took them all around, and explained everything to them,” Donmoyer says. “Our involvement in that program started within the last 10 years, and it happened because we have a great rapport with other departments whose department heads are very active in the Explorers group.”

Stick Together

Taking the time to advocate for the department—even to eighth graders—has increased the team’s visibility, and it brings with it the potential to benefit the lab in tangible ways as well.

“We’ve been getting more and more publicity and exposure, and we have a nicer lab now. It’s just time for us to come out,” Donmoyer says.

That positive working relationship extends to the hospital’s materials management. Thanks to an agreement between the two departments, biomed techs have the final say on when and if a check is cut to a vendor or supplier.

“If we do not receive something that was stated in a prepurchase agreement, I do not release full payment. This applies to all the capital equipment we are responsible for,” Donmoyer says. Such a policy makes it possible for biomeds to verify that all specifications set in the contract, such as the inclusion of a particular part, have been satisfied. “It has been extremely helpful, because once it is paid, that takes away all of your leverage, even if you didn’t receive everything.”

Heavily involved with new equipment acquisitions, The Reading Hospital’s biomed team, which consists of two dedicated imaging techs and nine general techs, along with a tech solely serving the operating room, ask vendors or manufacturers to complete prepurchase agreements.

The one-page questionnaire documents whether postwarranty repair support is provided, and what special test equipment will be needed. It also details information about any special facilities and utilities, or changes to existing structures that will be required to accommodate the new equipment.

“That prepurchase agreement is completed before the department can order anything, and based on that information, I can recommend whether or not we buy a piece of equipment,” Donmoyer says. “Or, if they really need it, I can tell the department that the company does not support in-house repair or testing and that they will have to get a service contract on it.”

Engineering such informed purchase decisions can alleviate future headaches for biomeds. One such example is when the hospital recently purchased digital imaging printing systems. The staff using the printers did not want the units offline at all during working hours, which meant scheduled preventive maintenance (PM) would have to be conducted after the shop’s regular business hours. To work within those parameters, the printers were purchased with service contracts.

“It is more economical and feasible to do that initially, until we are more familiar with them,” Donmoyer says. “Once we learn the idiosyncrasies of a device and the specific requests of that department, then we feel more comfortable canceling contracts; now we do 100% maintenance on the printers.”

Before canceling the contract, however, Donmoyer secured approval for the overtime that would be required to service the printers in accordance with the department’s wishes. “That was quite a heavy workload to suddenly take on without any more people, so overtime was necessary, and I wanted to make sure we didn’t run into any problems after we had the equipment.”

Once a green light is given for a purchase, the biomeds collaborate closely with the vendor to make sure they have the training and equipment necessary to adequately tend to the system.

“When we initially check in a piece of equipment, we write a model-specific PM procedure. We get two operator’s manuals and one service manual. If there is some type of part that is common, we stock that right away,” Donmoyer says. At least one tech will attend the manufacturer’s in-service class if one is offered. “We also make sure we have all the necessary tools, along with any special test fixtures or special test equipment. We want to know everything initially, so when it is out of warranty, we can repair it.”

Stay Organized

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who are extremely organized and those who get irritated with them.

“I keep joking that I have undiagnosed ADD,” Kauffman laughs. “But I can’t take it any other way. If you walk in to my office, it is spotless. To me, a man can only do one thing at a time, and to try and juggle too many things is going to bury you in stress.”

He believes that knowing what to expect, where to find things, and the status of work and inventory saves time for techs, who do not waste hours looking for things or doing research on a job status.

“I’ve been in so many biomed shops that are just full of broken equipment laying everywhere: things that are ripped apart waiting to get repaired, broken things laying on top of fixed things, parts just randomly thrown in bins,” Kauffman says. “We don’t work like that. Every piece of equipment in our department is there for a reason, and there is a repair work order open for it. We know how long it’s been there, and we have expectations of turnaround.”

As a result, the biomed shop Kauffman helped start is a picture of organization. “One of the things that impressed me with Reading Hospital was that it is a very organized shop, and it works really well,” Eshelman says. As one of the department’s newest additions, he believes all employees reap the benefits of the routine. “We have a lot of files that are put on a server, such as troubleshooting tips. So if you are working on something that takes all day and you discover some little trick, you put those tips up on the hard drive so everyone can use them.”

Walking into the shop at Reading Hospital is a lesson in structure. All parts are in alphabetical bins by manufacturer, and within those bins, every part is in a bag. Each bag is listed with the part number, price, and a description of the part.

All service manuals are removed from the manufacturers’ binders and stored in blue hanging folders, then placed in the service manual drawer. Manuals on CD or DVD are included, with notes updating the status of equipment manufacturers, based on the latest acquisitions and mergers.

Even the smallest component is regulated. Stocked screws, for instance, range in size from double O to one fourth inch. Each is in a container, in order, and clearly labeled.

“Every one of the guys has their own computerized, electronic label maker. I don’t want to see handwritten tabs on file folders, I want to see printed labels,” Kauffman says. “It’s just cleaner, and things stay organized. The labels don’t fall off, it’s consistent, and you never have to worry about trying to read someone’s handwriting.”

A team approach helps make less work of putting—and keeping—everything in its place. The shop is divided into sections, with each tech responsible for different areas. One person will oversee screws, another keeps an eye on the binders. Such responsibilities are included in annual reviews.

“That doesn’t mean that when I’m done with the binder I just throw it down and let the guy who is responsible for that binder organize it,” Kauffman says. “I don’t expect the guy who is responsible for maintaining the screws to fix the screws every time. We all work together to keep it orderly.”

Keep It Clean

Another sticking point for Kauffman is messy work areas, which he believes decrease efficiency. One suggestion he makes to his techs, but does not require, is that any piece of equipment waiting for parts be reassembled until it is ready to be repaired and returned to the floor. Not only does it serve to keep the shop clean, but it also helps ensure that the parts the equipment already has don’t disappear.

“It’s always been very important to me, too, because it helps you remember how it goes back together. A guy who takes something apart today thinks, ‘I’ll remember this screw goes there,’ but the truth is, you don’t remember as much as you’d like to think you remember, especially with intricate devices,” Kauffman says. “If you rip it apart and order parts, then just put it back together, it doesn’t take much longer and it can make things a lot easier.”

Among the spare parts housed by biomedical are clones of hard drives in use throughout the hospital. In recent years, the techs have started making a clone of every new drive, keeping a copy safe on the shelf to be called upon in the event of a computer crash.

“When we get a new piece of equipment, we make a copy of the configuration and the application software right away, so that if a hard drive crashes, we have a replacement ready to roll,” Donmoyer says. “It’s just like any other spare part.”

The department has discovered that the minimal hardware costs are well worth it. “Simply placing a $100 hard drive in stock beats the expense of thousands of dollars that could potentially be incurred during a failure,” Kauffman says. “And even forgetting the cost savings, by making a clone, the headaches during a hard drive failure can be virtually eliminated.”

Organization also helps those who are waiting for the results of the biomeds’ hard work. One area is designated for broken equipment, while another is marked for repaired technology. For the hospital’s central supply department, which delivers and picks up equipment about five or six times a day, there is no guesswork as to what goes where, meaning they can get in and out of the shop quickly.

Tim Herr (right) conducts an in-servicing on the operation of a new disk duplicator with, from left, John Chinnici, Mike Mumaw, Joe Emmel, and John Le.

It also means health care workers who stop by to check status can answer their own questions as to whether particular pieces are ready to head out the door. They can see instantly, easily, and without interrupting a tech if the item in question has been fixed.

Maintaining such order is not as difficult as it may sound. The key is to determine how things should be done and then stick with it, according to Kauffman. “I know some people might read this and think, Gee, they’ve got it made, I wish I had the time to do all that. But the truth is, once the program is established, it doesn’t take much longer to do extra things to keep the place organized,” he says.

Ultimately, the highly structured system results less from Kauffman’s self-assessed ADD and more from the pride he feels in his profession and place of business.

“We’ve got a beautiful physical space in the hospital. You’re not walking through the bowels of the hospital to get to biomed and then walking in to a pigsty,” he says. “The guys have electric at each one of their benches; most have oxygen and air. They have their own individual computers, their own pagers, and their own phone with voice mail. You can tell you’re walking in to a top-notch, organized, professional environment.

Read other department profiles in past issues of 24×7 by searching the online archives.

“One of the things this hospital has that I love is our commitment to treating others with respect,” Kauffman continues. “Whether you are the man pushing the trash trucks or the CEO of the hospital, this place has a philosophy to treat others with a great deal of respect. Nobody wants to work in a hostile environment, and every time you get a phone call, it has the potential to be hostile, so it’s important to me that we treat everyone with respect, that we are kind to everyone. You know, it’s all the stuff you learned in kindergarten.”

Dana Hinesly is a contributing writer for  24×7. For more information, contact .