There are certain challenges facing the imaging community in general, and while some of these impact the development and implementation of a PM specialist, the single biggest challenge may be finding an individual with enough experience to fill the position without a large investment of both money and time. The challenge is just filling open imaging positions in general, but the upside is that it allows you to build the training of the individual to meet your needs.

Building the person you need for the position has become more achievable in the last few years. During the Imaging Conference and Expo(ICE) 2016 there were a number of ISOs that were willing to discuss PM only classes. To start from scratch, you take a BMET or someone with an excellent electronics background and get them general X-ray service, general CT service, perhaps even general MRI or Nuc Med service training as your needs dictate. Let them work with the first shift crew for several months to learn as much as possible about the specific equipment they will be servicing. Then, have them trained to perform PMs.

There will be a great temptation to have the currently trained in-house personnel train the PM specialist on how to perform and complete PMs. It is a trap. Any shortcuts or bad habits that may have been developed due to the constraints of time and pressure will be passed on. A set training schedule with a training agenda in a controlled environment is the way to go.

There will be a great temptation to have the currently trained in-house personnel train the PM specialist on how to perform and complete PMs. It is a trap. Any shortcuts or bad habits that may have been developed due to the constraints of time and pressure will be passed on.

The best option will be the ISO. Have them develop a PM training that meets your needs. These companies make their living and continue to thrive and grow by being better than the manufacturer. They know what fails most, what needs the most attention, and how to get the longest life out of the equipment. When they develop training, it is based on experience and giving the customer the best ROI. This will be reflected in the training. Depending on the required time for training, scope of equipment, and the ability of the individual you hire as a PM Specialist, it may be possible to get training for multiple unit PMs in a package deal.

The key here is that the PM specialist does not need to be a product expert. The PM specialist only needs to know enough to perform a PM safely and properly. This means proper cleaning, calibration, lubrication, and identification of high failure parts that may need to be replaced or monitored. Since the PM specialist will not be expected to make any major repairs, the training will be shorter than the complete training the modality expert would receive.

The other challenge that will be faced is keeping a PM specialist working an off shift. There are those that would jump at the chance to work a third shift, however, that is not the majority of the workforce. The tools to maintain the position as a desirable position may vary from company to company, however there are a few things that most can offer.

Working four 10-hour shifts a week or three 12-hour shifts a week allows for more free time away from work. This may attract a more experienced individual who does not want the hectic lifestyle that is often offered in the world of imaging, yet likes the work itself. It is also great for those who may want to further their college education or have interests that can be pursued best during normal business hours. If there is some shift flexibility, that may be even more enticing. It may even be viable as a part-time position.

For an ISO or larger hospital system it might be offered as a path to advancement. Three or five years as a PM specialist will lead to CT or MRI specialist on day shift. With the understanding that if they like the position of PM specialist after that three or five year completion, they can opt to stay in that position.

Finally there is money. Not only shift differential, but as much as a 20 percent higher base than other imaging positions can still easily show a significant ROI. When running a ROI calculation for a hospital system that has seven hospitals, two standalone ER locations, and multiple imaging systems the numbers were staggering. If they hired a PM specialist to perform PMs on only MRI and CT units full time, paid that person 50 percent more than the highest imaging pay rate as an hourly rate and sent them to training costing $100,000 for the first year. The ROI in the first year was over $300,000 in downtime for PMs alone. That is if the PM specialist sat and drank coffee after the CT and MRI unit PMs were completed. If they performed other PMs, every other modality added was an increase in ROI.

Actually getting a PM specialist implemented can be another item that needs serious consideration. This will typically be something that has to come from the top down. The administrator or manager who can see real savings and improvement to patient care will drive the creation and retention of the position. There may be some resistance from the current in-house imaging team as there can develop fiefdoms around modalities or departments. This may require demanding or emphasizing the team environment. Sensitivity to concerns about downsizing and job security is a must and should be addressed. Ideally, for an in-house team, someone may step into the role allowing for a new hire to fill their previous roll.

The first steps are to get real numbers. What is the average income per hour of the MRI, CT, cath lab during a normal work day? Most radiology directors can tell you how much they lose per hour per unit if it is down during normal working hours. How long is the PM per the manufacturers service manual? How many do you have, how far are they spread out? How much overtime have you been paying to have PMs done due to late starts? Do you end up paying for service while you perform a scheduled PM? Add all of that up to see what number you need to get a real ROI. Chances are that a larger hospital system, or large imaging group, will see immediate, real, significant ROI as well as improved patient care.

John Garrett has 20 years experience in imaging service including general radiation, mammography, CT, and Nuclear Medicine. He has worked for third-party service companies, manufacturers, sales companies and in-house imaging teams.