Radiologic Technology Instructor – Mentor, Cindy Heald

Radiologic Technology Instructor 

Mentor, Cindy Heald

 

IMG_1081 (2) copyCindy is the instructor/coordinator for the Radiologic Technology (RT) program at Tulsa Tech and is herself a graduate of the program. The RT program at Tulsa Tech is highly regarded by the Tulsa medical community. As a result, all the students in the 2016 graduating class were placed with local employers. One of the reasons for the program’s success placing their students is that the major hospitals and clinics have representatives on an Advisory Board that gives input to help improve the program. Because of their involvement, Tulsa Tech stays current with the rapid changes in imaging technology and the new kinds of imaging equipment used by the area’s employers.

If you decide to be a radiologic technologist (also known as “radiographer”) there are a number of ways you can advance your career. You can choose to specialize in one of the many areas of radiology like CT (“cat scan”), mammography, bone densitometry, nuclear medicine, ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging. There are also opportunities to move into different supervisory and management positions. Some of the positions in this field have regular business hours so you are better able to balance your personal and family life.

Admission to the Tulsa Tech RT program is competitive and the school limits admissions each year. Admission applications are taken beginning in November and the class is selected by March. Classes begin in July and run for twenty-two months. In order to be certified to work as an RT, it is a requirement that you also have at least a two-year Associates degree, although it can be in any major. Priority for admissions to the Tulsa Tech program is given to people who have their degree or are close to getting a degree. Like all the programs at Tulsa Tech, financial aid is available under a number of programs including the Accelerating Independence Scholarship that covers 100% of the tuition for area students who begin classes before their twenty fourth birthday.

 

Overview

I grew up in a small town in southwestern Oklahoma called Mountain View. The town was named for its view of the Wichita Mountains that are part of a nearby federal wildlife refuge. After I graduated from high school, I went to Oklahoma Christian College in Oklahoma City. But I didn’t know what I wanted to do at the time and was changing majors every semester. I quit after two years and worked as a bank teller and in a doctor’s office. About eight years later, I realized I needed an education so I could get a job that would help provide for my family. A friend brought me information about the health programs available through Oklahoma Career Tech. I decided on the Radiologic Technology program and was accepted at Tulsa Tech. It’s a hands-on program, where along with classroom study, you are also placed in a local hospital for clinical training. The clinical practice part of the program not only helped me gain skills as a radiologic technologist, it was like a two year job interview. The hospitals could see how well you perform and how you interact with the patients and doctors. When patients come in , they are usually not at their best. Being able to show empathy and work with patients who are hurting from an accident, or who are nervous about something like a cancer screening, is an important part of the RT’s job.

When I graduated from Tulsa Tech, I took my certification exam with the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Registration by the ARRT is equivalent to a certification or license in most states and is required by most employers. This is a 200 question, 3-hour test that covers everything you've studied for two years, and you must score 75 or above to pass. That is why as part of our program, we help prepare our Tulsa Tech students for this exam.

I started my career in general radiology, but then decided to get an additional certification in mammography. I thought this was an interesting specialty where I was able to work closely with both the patient and the radiologist, the doctor who interprets the images I had taken. I had patients of all ages when I was in mammography, including men, who also have incidents of breast cancer. I particularly remember one young woman, who was athletic and in great physical condition but had found a lump in her breast. The x-ray found cancer. While it is never good for someone to get this kind of diagnosis, I always thought that having a diagnosis and hopefully getting it early would give my patients the best chance for a successful outcome. Mammography was also a specialty with regular business hours that allowed me to balance my job and my family life.

After working for a few years, I was asked by one of my teachers to come back to Tulsa Tech as an instructor. I started teaching in 2002 and ten years later also became the instructor/coordinator.

One of the things you should know is that we emphasize safety in our RT program at Tulsa Tech. Radiologic technologists must minimize unnecessary exposure that risks the health of the patient as well as the technologist. We teach students many methods to minimize radiation exposure, like using lead aprons to cover parts of the patient that don’t need to be x-rayed.

One reason our placement rates at Tulsa Tech are so high is that we also teach what we call “soft skills”, like interviewing and how to write a resume. Towards the end of the program, we have supervisors and managers from local radiology departments come in and meet with students to give them a practice interview and review resumes before they begin formally applying for jobs.

Here is a link to a series of videos for young people by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists that that explains more about Radiologic Technology:

https://www.asrt.org/radcademy/videos

 

Specialized Areas of Diagnostic Imaging

 After you complete your basic training at Tulsa Tech and get your ARRT certification, you can choose to get additional training that will allow you to work in a long list of other diagnostic imaging areas. Because many RTs move into these specialty areas, there is always a demand for our graduates to fill entry-level positions , Here is list of the major specialties:

  • Cardiovascular-Interventional Technologists use advanced imaging techniques to help guide catheters, vena cava filters, stents or other tools through the body. Using these techniques, disease can be treated without open surgery.
  • Computed Tomography Technologists use a rotating x-ray unit to obtain "slices" of anatomy at different levels within the body. A computer then stacks and assembles the individual slices, creating a diagnostic image. With CT technology, physicians can view the inside of organs, which is not possible with general radiography.
  • Magnetic Resonance Technologists are specially trained to operate MRI equipment. During an MRI scan, atoms in the patient's body are exposed to a strong magnetic field. The technologist applies a radiofrequency pulse to the field, which knocks the atoms out of alignment. When the technologist turns the pulse off, the atoms return to their original position. In the process, they give off signals that are measured by a computer and processed to create detailed images of the patient's anatomy.
  • Mammographers produce diagnostic images of breast tissue using special x-ray equipment. Under a federal law known as the Mammography Quality Standards Act, mammographers must meet specific educational and experience criteria in order to perform mammographic procedures.
  • Nuclear Medicine Technologists administer trace amounts of radiopharmaceuticals to a patient to obtain information about organs, tissues and bone. The technologist then uses a special camera to detect gamma rays emitted by the radiopharmaceuticals and create an image of the body part under study.
  • Quality Management monitors the quality of processes and systems in the radiology department. They perform processor quality control tests, assess film density, monitor timer accuracy and reproducibility and identify and solve problems associated with the production of medical images.
  • Sonographers use sound waves to obtain images of organs and tissues in the body. During an ultrasound examination, the sonographer places a transducer in contact with the patient's body. It emits high-frequency sound waves that pass through the body, sending back "echoes" as they bounce off organs and tissues. Special computer equipment converts those echoes into visual images.
  • Radiologic Technologists on the Radiation Oncology Team are responsible for treating many types of cancers. The team includes the patient's primary care physician, a physician specialist known as a radiation oncologist, a medical physicist, a radiation therapist and a medical dosimetrist.
  • Medical Dosimetrists determine how much radiation will be delivered to a tumor site. Under the supervision of a medical physicist, they calculate and generate radiation dose distributions in accordance with the treatment plan developed by the radiation oncologist.
  • Radiation Therapists administer targeted doses of radiation to the patient's body to treat cancer or other diseases. As the radiation strikes human tissue, it produces highly energized ions that gradually shrink and destroy the nucleus of malignant tumor cells. Radiation therapists typically see each of their patients three to five days a week throughout a four- to seven-week treatment plan.

 

To get hired in these specialties you will need to meet additional requirements and pass the ARRT specialty exams. Many RTs are transferred by their employers to specialties like CT or MRI to get clinical experience before they do the coursework for their certification.  It just depends on the employer and the circumstances. The coursework for theses specialty programs is taught though a combination of on line courses and seminars sponsored by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists. Here is a link to their webpage where you can learn about their educational programs and careers in RT:

https://www.asrt.org/home

Beside advancing your career by going into one of these specialties, once you gained  experience, you can also go into management as a Chief Radiologic Technologist or Director of Imaging.

 

Tulsa Tech’s Radiologic Technologist Program

Admission to our Tulsa Tech program is competitive.  Admission applications are taken beginning in November and the class is selected by the end of March. You must have at least an Associate’s Degree to become a registered RT, although it can be in any major. We give priority to people who already have that degree or who are close to completing it. A new class begins each July.

The program’s curriculum is based on twenty two months of full-time study where students are taught subjects like anatomy, patient positioning, examination techniques, equipment protocols, radiation safety, radiation protection and basic patient care and also get practical experience through clinical rotations. Classroom days are 7:45 am -2:30 pm. Most clinical rotations are scheduled for the daytime hours of 7:00am to 3:00pm, three (3) days per week; however, some clinical rotations are scheduled during evening and weekend hours.

Radiologic Technologist Courses at Tulsa Tech

  • Patient Care in the Radiologic Sciences
  • Introduction to Radiologic Science & Health Care
  • Radiographic Procedures I
  • Image Analysis I
  • Human Structure & Function I
  • Clinical Practice IA
  • Ethics & Law in the Radiologic Sciences
  • Core Medical Terminology
  • Radiographic Pathology
  • Radiographic Procedures II
  • Image Analysis II
  • Human Structure & Function II
  • Clinical Practice IB
  • Introduction to Computed Tomography
  • Clinical Practice IIA
  • Imaging Equipment
  • Pharmacology and Venipuncture
  • Radiation Biology
  • Radiation Production & Characteristics
  • Career Preparation for Radiography
  • Principles of Imaging
  • Clinical Practice II-B
  • Radiation Protection
  • Advanced Imaging
  • Digital Image Acquisition & Display
  • Comprehensive Program Review

Cost of the Program

Without any financial aid, the cost for tuition is estimated to be $10,140 plus $2,182.82 in additional costs for things like books and scrubs. But there are many financial aid programs available to Tulsa Tech students. In most cases all or most of this cost can be covered. But you have to know how to navigate the system. We have all our students first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and have counselors at Tulsa Tech who will help you fill out this form and apply for scholarships from beginning to end. Plus, the tuition is 100% free if you qualify for a new program started in 2014 called the Accelerating Independence Scholarship. This is a “Gap Scholarship” that covers 100% of the tuition for area students who begin classes before their twenty fourth birthdays.

 

Summary

 If you are interested in a career in healthcare, being a Radiologic Technologist can be a good career choice like it was for me. Once you have completed your basic courses, you can go on and specialize in the area of radiology that most interests you. Although some positions may include evenings, nights, or weekends, there are job opportunities as an RT where you have normal hours and can balance your career with your family life. A career in Radiologic Technology also provides opportunities to move into management, sales, or education if that interests you. The pay is good and the demand for RTs is expected to grow faster than most other occupations because of the aging of the population and the increasing use of medical imaging technology.

 

US Bureau of Labor Statistics Salary Survey for Radiologic Technologists and MRI Technologists

The median annual wage for radiologic technologists was $56,670 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $38,110, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $81,660.

The median annual wage for magnetic resonance imaging technologists was $67,720 in May 2015. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $46,690, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $94,550.

In May 2015, the median annual wages for radiologic technologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private $57,950
Outpatient care centers 56,820
Medical and diagnostic laboratories 56,660
Offices of physicians 51,610

 

In May 2015, the median annual wages for MRI technologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Medical and diagnostic laboratories $68,080
Offices of physicians 67,680
Hospitals; state, local, and private 67,380

 

 Job Outlook

Employment of radiologic and MRI technologists is projected to grow 9 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. As the population grows older, there will be an increase in medical conditions that require imaging as a tool for making diagnoses.

 

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