Oncology Services Training

As the market leader of independent linear accelerator service, Avante Oncology Services is often asked about the training and certification of its service engineers. Historically many in the radiation oncology community have been led to believe that branded manufacturer training is the only way to build a pre-eminent service team.

Recognizing that, Avante Oncology Services has invested in both initial and ongoing training, employing a structured curriculum, innovative mentoring program and accessible technical assistance, to build the industry's best-prepared service team.

Proof of this commitment is Avante's industry leading offer to guarantee 99% equipment uptime. This enables each of our customers to provide the most reliable therapy for their patients.

While many Avante employees have previously worked – and been trained – by manufacturers, Avante's training program provides continuing education, and broadens the team's experience. New technology is immediately embraced, and the Avante team has successfully transitioned with each wave of linear accelerator enhanced technology as it arrives in the market.

Avante's team of more than 50 engineers provides ongoing service and maintenance on more than 220 linear accelerators. When combined with the company's commitment to deliver outstanding service with competitively priced solutions, it becomes clear why Avante is the leading alternative to the traditional reliance upon the manufacturer for extended service.

In addition to Avante's leadership position on all three major brands of linear accelerators in the United States, it is also an internationally recognized resource for training. For example, in April 2014 the company launched a first-of-its-kind service training program for accelerator service engineers in the People's Republic of China. Working with the Radiation Therapy Equipment & Technology Branch of the China Medical Equipment Association, Avante jointly organizes and conducts LINAC maintenance training for clinical engineers in China.

Avante's Structured Process

Avante has a highly structured training program with instructors typically having 15-20 years of experience. In addition to instruction, these senior professionals also assist in curriculum development.

As part of its continuing investment in training, Avante opened a new training facility in Concord, NC in 2019. The facility includes multiple machines from different manufacturers as well as standalone subsystems, such as a multileaf collimator, carousel system and vacuum station. The facility allows FSEs to work with fully functional LINACs, and to assemble and disassemble parts of the equipment that are rarely accessible. This facility is currently the only such facility outside of an OEM that includes its own test bunker for working beam on with the linear accelerator.

In addition to continual ongoing training, Avante also supports engineers in the field with almost instant access to tech help. The National Tech Support team is staffed by the most experienced and talented field service engineers who are available 24/7 for phone or video conference support. The TechHelp electronic network allows an engineer to post a particular problem to all other engineers to engage their collective experience in troubleshooting the problem.

Hands-on Learning Approach

Typical OEM training classes are fairly large; not so at Avante. Rather than having one person work on a machine while 20 other students watch, each engineer at Avante has the chance to receive hands-on experience. Group projects that might allow a few strong students to "carry" the rest of the team aren't a part of the Avante training program.

Regardless of their background, each field service engineer (FSE) begins their time at Avante with three courses:

  • Customer service
  • Radiation safety
  • Emergency and safety training

From there, a training curriculum is tailored to suit the FSE's training and experience, and to prepare the FSE for their field assignment. This will include a number of required courses as well as on-the-job mentoring. Avante follows a well-established approach to learning – the student learns about the topic in the classroom, and then has the opportunity to practice in the field. This classroom/field pattern continues throughout the duration of the training.

During their time in the field, the FSE is paired with a senior engineer for a mentoring program that extends for at least six months. As the FSE learns new skills, they take on more responsibilities that test their knowledge – all under the watchful eye of their mentor.

Types of Training

Avante training courses are presented in a variety of settings, depending on the subject matter and learning objectives.

Online courses are used frequently for more advanced topics during ongoing training. The majority of the subject matter centers on equipment operations, maintenance and repair, with testing at the completion of each module.

Online presentations include:

Live training in a classroom setting provides FSEs with one-to-one training and the opportunity to learn more about the machine.

Boot camp is designed to test the limits of the FSE in training. Lasting one week, the instructor drills attendees on their knowledge. During this time, they will replace 30 to 40 of the most common repair parts.

Mentoring in the field gives new FSEs the opportunity to learn on the job from senior engineers who carefully monitor their progress and offer individual instruction.

Installations are generally not a part of OEM training, but offer an excellent training experience for FSEs. During an installation, conducted by a senior engineer, the FSE has the opportunity to see every aspect of the machine, including the hook-ups.

Continuing education is a key component of Avante's training program, and might include video training, schematic reviews and collaborations between senior engineers. Those that are particularly informative are recorded so all FSEs can log in and view the material.