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Tools of the Trade

In the world of medical imaging there are well-established requirements for the frequency and performance of Preventive Maintenance (PM) on imaging equipment. The specific procedures are laid out with enough detail to inspect, lubricate, test, and calibrate that even parts that will last 20 years without inspection are thoroughly checked out. These are in place to ensure that patients are safe and that the equipment experiences maximum uptime. Are you doing the same for your tools?

Most, if not all, shops will get the multimeter or the oscilloscope calibrated annually as well as the non-invasive KV meter and mAs meter. But what do you do with your other tools? Do you consider how much time and money a worn ball-end hex wrench will actually cost you and the imaging center or hospital?

At least once a year it is a good idea to set aside time to inspect tools. Replace any screwdrivers that are chipped or excessively worn. Check hex wrenches and replace any that are worn. All hand tools should have a critical examination and all measurement tools should be tested or calibrated. In a department that has a heavy workload, more frequent tool inspection should be considered.

One of the best techniques for tool inspection is to have one team member inspect another team member’s tools and point out anything questionable. This allows someone that is not looking at that tool set everyday to consider the state of the tools. Some less expensive tools, such as ball head hex wrenches, should be replaced every two years as a matter of schedule. This reduces the problems caused by a ball-end hex wrench breaking during an after hours call. All that downtime could be prevented by spending less than $20 every two years.

One item often overlooked is the toolbox. What condition is the tool that holds, protects, and organizes the other tools? Beyond the idea that your tools need to be protected from all the evils of the world, there is professional image to consider. The faith of the imaging techs and managers are of concern. However, the bigger concern may be patient and family impressions. A patient sitting outside of an X-ray room may be given a questionnaire that will impact hospital reimbursement. Something as simple as seeing a worn out tool bag can create the impression of sub-par service. While the old tool bag has no bearing on your ability to do the work and keep the patient safe, that really doesn’t matter. What does matter is the perception that the patient develops.

Check your tools. It doesn’t take that long and it can have a big payoff. It can save time by preventing an untimely need to replace tools and it can prevent team members from being injured. Taking care of your tools, including regular inspection, is part of taking care of the equipment which is part of taking care of the patient.


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 the manager of clinical engineering at Catholic Health. John holds a B.S. in Health and Human Services Management from Wilberforce University.



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