By K. Richard Douglas
Some of the best imaging service engineers in the country work in the field for the makers of the equipment they service. This produces an extraordinary high level of familiarity with the equipment.
Kevin Long is one of those experts. Long is a field service engineer with Philips Healthcare who specializes in ultrasound. Although he didn’t start out in imaging, he ended up there after realizing a need earlier in his life.
“Growing up, I was always the hands-on type. From an early age, [from] working on and modifying toys or working on things in the garage with my father, to working on my car and motorcycle when I was a teenager, I always enjoyed the feeling of fixing, building or making something work,” Long remembers.
“I was lucky enough to learn most of this from my father, who was always someone who enjoyed and attempted to fix or build something himself, instead of hiring someone to do it. In high school, I was in drafting and computer-aided design all four years, two hours per day. I planned on going to college for mechanical, civil or computer-aided engineering,” Long says.
He obtained an associate’s degree in computer-aided engineering after high school, but at the time of completion, many automotive manufacturers were going through layoffs. Instead of moving on to obtain a bachelor’s degree, he decided to rethink what he wanted to do amid a fear that he would not be able to find a job.
“My wife, who was my girlfriend at the time, was in college for nursing. I also had other family and friends in the medical field. My stepmother is a dialysis registered nurse, and she had told me about a biomedical technician who serviced her dialysis equipment and how important of a role they had ensuring the equipment she used to treat very ill patients was safe,” Long says.
“I did some research on this career path; I was very interested. I looked up what degree was required and the rest is history. I enrolled in a biomedical engineering technology program the next semester at Schoolcraft College,” Long adds.
He completed a degree in biomedical engineering technology from Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Michigan.
“I initially was hired as a biomedical technician while I was still in school. A position opened at a partnering hospital of the hospital I was at doing my internship for my degree at Schoolcraft. I was hired in Lansing, Michigan. Right out of school in Lansing, I did most of my training with an operating room biomedical technician who was set to retire.His role was repairing and maintaining operating room equipment,” Long says.
Long transferred back to a hospital in Flint, Michigan, a place that was closer to home and where he already knew coworkers because it was where he had done his internship.
“In Flint, I worked on many types of equipment and tried to learn as much as possible. I was sent to service school and was trained on repairing and maintaining dialysis equipment. I obtained my certification as well and moved from a biomedical equipment technician (BMET) to a certified biomedical equipment technician (CBET),” Long says.
The Transition to Imaging
Because the ultrasound equipment was in need of more attention at the hospital in Flint, Long saw an opportunity to help out.
“A few years after I was back in Flint, there was some restructuring of who maintained the hospital’s imaging equipment. Most of the imaging equipment was serviced by imaging specialists who also worked for the hospital chain, included in this was ultrasound equipment,” Long says.
“The ultrasound equipment was being somewhat neglected because of the specialists’ workload. They were also maintaining CT, MRI, X-ray and other imaging equipment. It was decided to bring the ultrasound equipment in under the biomedical engineering department to be maintained. That’s when I asked my manager if I could take ownership of this equipment. I was sent to ultrasound training and started repairing and maintaining the equipment shortly after,” he adds.
Long says that while working on ultrasound he worked closely with many field service engineers from different OEMs.
“My Philips ultrasound field service engineer always stood out to me; he was great and always seemed to know everything about the equipment we had. I was always impressed by his knowledge and expertise. I learned a lot from him; from ways to diagnose and fix issues to little things to do during preventative maintenance that would ensure a system would function and run efficiently for the users,” Long says.
“Luckily enough, a field service engineer position opened up with Philips. I applied and was offered the position. I have been a Philips field service engineer for almost three years now, and the engineer I spoke about above, is now a coworker of mine,” Long adds.
Long’s position at Philips is considered a multi-vendor ultrasound service position.
“I not only work on Philips equipment, but I was trained, support and maintain many different ultrasound systems, regardless of the manufacturer. I have been trained on Philips, GE, Siemens, Sonosite, Mindray, Zonare, Hitachi-Aloka, Verathon and Boston Scientific equipment to name a few,” he says.
“One of the benefits of being with a company like Philips is that we are a leader in diagnostic imaging, image-guided therapy, patient monitoring and health informatics, as well as in consumer health and home care. I love what I do now, but there are many different career avenues I could travel down with Philips in the future,” Long says.
Besides enjoying his job, Long received special recognition at Philips that led to a tropical experience.
“My first full year with Philips, I was selected as a Pinnacle Board Member. There were only a few ultrasound field service engineers that were selected. It was quite an honor. I got to take my wife to Hawaii,” Long says.
Off the job, Long enjoys spending time outdoors regardless of the season.
“I love camping with my family, watersports and hockey. Every year I build a hockey rink in my backyard. My neighbors may think I’m crazy but it sure is fun. We also spend a lot of time in northern Michigan camping and boating on the lake with family in the summer,” he says.
The family he refers to is made up of his “beautiful wife and two beautiful little girls, ages two and five,” Long says.
The imaging customers of Philips are in good hands with an imaging service engineer who really likes what he does. And, with the long, cold winter in Michigan, he has had a lot of time to skate on that hockey rink.