Spotlight on MRI Tech Andrew Kogan

The lead MRI technician at the Columbia MRI Center talks about safety, claustrophobia, and why he loves his job.

MRI tech at monitor
Andrew Kogan, lead MRI technician at ColumbiaDoctors MRI Center

Lead MRI technician Andrew Kogan has worked at the MRI Center in Washington Heights for 12 years. He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and finds that it comes in handy as he works with patients who are about to get an MRI. We asked him a few questions about the benefits and challenges of working with patients as they contemplate entering a giant magnet.

What makes a good MRI tech?

In the MRI world, safety is the main concern. You can never do too much when it comes to making sure that patients are safe. Unlike most people who go to work, we’re in a position where we can really hurt someone, and it’s important that we make sure that doesn’t happen.

How do you keep patients safe?

The number one thing that can go wrong is overlooking an implant. You have to ask the right questions because you can’t see it.

Sometimes a patient comes in and they’re adamant that their implant is safe, but I need to make sure that it is. You can’t say, “It should be safe,” or, “Usually it’s safe”. If there are 20 different versions of an implant and one of them is not safe, you just can’t take the chance.

Luckily here – and a lot of places are not afforded this luxury – we have safety officers who, if there's any question, we go to them.

People’s automatic fear, if they don’t understand MRI, is that a device is going to rip out of their body. That’s not going to happen. But the device could be shifted, which is a potential risk. The main thing that can happen with devices that have electronic components is that they stop working.

What’s the biggest concern that patients have when getting an MRI?

Claustrophobia. It’s the number one challenge from a patient’s perspective.

I have a degree in psychology, and I find that it’s really helpful, to understand what the person is going through and how I can help them get through this.

I let the people know that I'm going to be there with them the entire time. I tell them that I'm going to talk to them between every scan. I let them know how long the scans are, how much time they have left, things like that. I’m doing everything short of staying in the room with them, because I can’t stay and scan at the same time.

Do the new scanners help with claustrophobia?

Having the new scanners with the wider bore has actually helped a lot. I get fewer people ringing the bell. People come in and say, “Wow, that actually looks a lot better.”

We also have things to offer now like music, and some of the scanners have video. We now have the option to do the scans in multiple physical setups. I used to have to put them in head first. Now I can put them in feet first. In the end they’re in the same position, but they didn’t have to have their head go through the scanner. It’s a psychological thing.

Have you ever had a patient who can’t do it?

It happens every day. It might be easy to say, “Oh, well, couldn’t get it, easier day for me.” But if someone is here because they have a brain tumor, and doctors really need to be able to look at that, then we need to get that person through the scanner.

Have you ever had an MRI?

Yes. I went somewhere else and it was very different. They had tech-aids who brought me into the scanner and set me up. The tech never got out of his seat. He hardly spoke to me. It was an uncomfortable scan and it took longer than it should have.

It’s not a pleasant experience in there. If you can help make it a more pleasant experience, that’s a big plus.

What do you like most about working at the MRI Center?

People aren’t a number here. It’s not about statistics. A ten-minute scan could take an hour because that’s how long it takes to get that patient through the scanner, and we’re going to take that hour if we need to. It’s about attention to detail and the level of care.

People don’t want to have an MRI to begin with. You don’t go to the waiting room and everyone is all smiles. But if people leave with a smile, that’s huge.

I really love the team that I work with. This is a tight knit crew.