Blue Ridge Grads Abound in Augusta Health Clinical Engineering Department
Augusta Health’s Clinical Engineering department: (L to R) Kenneth Thomas, Matthew Choate, Jeff Long, David Queen, Darrell Switzer, and Aaron Brown.
School rivalries don’t exist in the Clinical Engineering Department at Augusta Health. That’s because Director Jeff Long and all five of his biomedical equipment technicians are graduates of Blue Ridge Community College with degrees in Computer and Electronics Technology.
“The instructors saw people with the right potential and steered them our way,” Long said. “Internships allowed us to decide if the person had the right stuff to be successful. I am very fortunate to have the talented group of people that I have.”
The types of computer and electronics careers available in industry and manufacturing in our area are well known, but the field of healthcare technology management is growing exponentially. Long’s department services nearly 5,000 pieces of clinical medical equipment worth tens of millions of dollars. It manages all planned maintenance, calibration, and testing of diagnostic equipment, as well as unscheduled repairs. No two days are alike.
“You could have a big system failure occur in the next ten minutes, or it could be smooth sailing for two weeks,” Long said. “We work with everything from handheld thermometers to devices that deliver anesthesia to linear accelerators for administering radiation to cancer patients,” he notes.
Long said BRCC’s Computer and Electronics Technology program provides an extremely strong base, or “launch pad,” to go in many directions, depending on the type of work environment for which the person is best suited. For example, some may prefer a manufacturing or production setting where things are more predictable. Others will thrive in the fast pace of Augusta Health.
“New technology comes through the door daily [here]. You’ll learn as much on the first day of your career as the last,” he said. His technicians are constantly learning new technologies and attending manufacturer training and licensing courses for re-certification.
While good biomedical technicians need excellent technical aptitude, they must also possess top-notch communication skills and the ability to focus in direct patient-care environments around people who are very sick or injured. “Technicians need the ability to go in and focus very quickly to work from problem to solution,” said Long. “There is often a lot going on and they must tune out distractions.”
Along with job satisfaction of daily challenges and growth, there is a “feel good” element, as co-workers stop him in the hall to thank him and his staff for fixing a problem. “A lot of it is about relationships and building trust,” Long said. “When you know you’ve been able to help someone do their clinical job, which then directly affects patients, it is rewarding.”
After 30 years with Augusta Health, Long said this has been a great career field even though he “chanced upon it.” In healthcare technology management, “You can work anywhere in the world,” he said.
David Queen and Aaron Brown (standing) test and verify the calibration of the multi-leaf collimator after the repair of an Elekta Digital Linear Accelerator.