There seems to be a disturbing trend within the imaging community. It has become more and more common for an in house Field Service Engineer (FSE) to be more of a first look and less of a person that goes in and fixes any problem that is put in front of them. In short, there is a tendency to become complacant. Too many are becoming an imaging servicing secretary instead of a FSE. Of course this is not everyone, but it is becoming more common. It is dangerous to be the person in that position. Obviously, if the people with the money catch on, your job is at risk, but it may be hard to find the next job if you have fallen into that rut.

There are many excuses, and the manufacturers make it easy to be the person that calls in service as much or more than performing a repair. The new diagnostic software used on almost all new imaging equipment is the first excuse. The new “schematics” that are not true schematics but are “functional schematics” that are a cross between a schematic and a functional diagram are yet another excuse. Often they are more functional diagram than schematic. But stop and consider, when was the last time you actually went into the schematic to troubleshoot? Too many in our industry cannot remember the last time they used an Oscilloscope to check ripple on a power supply.

Some of the driving force is that the average age of the FSE is getting older. There is not a generation of young people that are training to do what the FSE does. The passion for finding the problem and running it to ground becomes infectious. Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs speaks about the skills gap, the lack of people training for work that involves wrenches and multimeters. The Medical Imaging Service field is feeling that same pain.

Even if you are fixing everything you touch and calling in Independent Service Organizations (ISO) only when you have multiple down units, there are a few things you should consider. Open up some schematics, even if it is while doing Preventive Maintenance. Check your DC power supplies and find out what you have for ripple.

See about getting a high school class to come visit your hospital and see what is involved with the work you do on a daily basis. Give a tour, with hospital permission of course. If you work at an ISO, bring a high school class in to see what you do. You can always reach out to speak at a school.

You are the keepers of valuable knowledge. There is experience that cannot be replaced. It can, however, be handed down. The next generation is looking for someplace to go, something worth doing. It is important that there be mentors who have done those things worth doing, willing to pass on knowledge to the next generation. Think about the impact you can have on future FSEs.

Think about the power of finding high school students that show ability and getting them into a web-based class for introduction to X-ray. I would challenge every FSE, every hospital, every ISO, and even the Imaging Conference and Expo (ICE) to involve high school aged students and have them be part of our conversation. Find a way to start involving and shaping the next wave of FSEs. Help find those outstanding FSEs of the future and pass the torch.


John has twenty 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. Currently John is managing imaging service for two hospitals and six out patient centers for Kettering Health Network. John holds a B.S. in Health and Human Services Management from Wilberforce University.