Professional Development and Career Advancement

CHAPTER 24


Professional Development and Career Advancement






Professionals continually investigate opportunities for career mobility. Student radiologic technologists should begin looking at the opportunities in their chosen profession. A radiologic technologist is a health care professional skilled in theory and practice of the technical aspects of the use of x-rays in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. In the past, the radiologic technologist was faced with limited opportunities for mobility. After the completion of their training, radiologic technologists usually began their careers as staff radiologic technologists. Promotions were based on seniority and the amount of responsibility an individual assumed. Such promotions were usually to a senior radiologic technologist, who was responsible for supervising a particular area in the department of radiology, then to assistant chief radiologic technologist, and finally to chief radiologic technologist. Promotions were not necessarily based on formal educational background and preparation; instead, they were based on a process of self-education that was often the result of many years of employment and experience.


Significant changes have occurred in the field of radiology, and with these changes, opportunities for greater career mobility for the radiologic technologist increased. Career progression today is based primarily on the formal educational background of an individual. The direction of advancement and higher education needs are determined by the individual.


Student radiologic technologists interested in career mobility must examine their career priorities, assess their individual capabilities and interests, and then begin investigating pathways for success. The need for additional education depends on an individual’s area of interest. Student radiologic technologists mapping their career progression must consider the time and financial investment coupled with opportunities higher education will offer them. In radiography, a short-term commitment to education usually involves an additional year of postgraduate work. A long-term higher education commitment includes undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral studies. Historically, students created an individual plan by comparing course descriptions to their own career goals.


Today, many higher education programs are available for career advancement of radiologic technologists. However, in choosing a career path, an individual must determine goals and explore opportunities.


In addition to the multitude of postgraduate educational opportunities are several nontraditional educational programs available to radiologic technologists.


Colleges and universities offer off-campus courses, as well as online courses. Students of all ages take advantage of this option, and some earn entire degrees at home; they can spend time with family or continue to work while studying toward the degree with little disruption in their lives.


Continuing education programs are offered by the many professional organizations, including the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT) and state and local societies throughout the country. Such informal educational programs offer the radiologic technologist an opportunity to improve expertise without a long-term collegiate commitment and with minimal financial output.


Educational programs sponsored by national, state, and local professional organizations assist radiologic technologists in keeping abreast of the newest innovations in the field of radiologic technology and provide them with the opportunity to improve skills (Fig. 24-1).




Short-term postgraduate education


Postgraduate education can take one of two routes. The first path is short-term postgraduate education, which requires 1 or 2 additional years of formal education after graduation and certification as a radiologic technologist. One of four separate areas may be pursued in this short-term educational program: radiation therapy, nuclear medicine, sonography, or interventional radiographic procedures.


The radiation therapist, under the direction of the radiation oncologist, delivers radiation therapy treatments by exposing specific areas, usually those affected by tumors, of the patient’s body to prescribed doses of ionizing radiation. In this field, the radiation therapist operates therapeutic equipment such as high-energy linear accelerators, particle generators, brachytherapy equipment, and superficial therapy equipment. The curriculum recommended by the ASRT includes courses such as radiation and radionuclide physics, mathematics, pathology, radiation therapy, radiation safety, oncology, brachytherapy, treatment planning, and records and statistics. After postgraduate training, the candidate is eligible to take the certifying examination of the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) in therapy.


The second area of short-term educational commitment is that of a nuclear medicine technologist. Although helpful for positron-emission tomography (PET) or computed tomography (CT), a background in radiologic technology is not necessary to become a nuclear medicine technologist. A nuclear medicine technologist images patients through the use of a scintillation or gamma camera after patient injection of a radionuclide. Therapy and in vivo studies are also included in this modality. Curricula usually consist of nuclear physics, instrumentation and statistics, health physics, biochemistry, immunology, radionuclide chemistry, radiopharmacy, injection techniques, radiation biology and protection, clinical nuclear medicine, radionuclide therapy, and computer applications. In nuclear medicine, as in radiation therapy, graduates of accredited programs are qualified for certifying examinations in nuclear medicine from the ARRT and the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB).


Sonography, which is the technique in which deep structures of the body are visualized by recording the reflections of ultrasonic waves directed into the tissues, offers a short-term commitment in education, or it can be included in a long-term commitment. Throughout the country, several certificate programs are available in which the candidate majors in sonography techniques; several diplomas and 4-year programs are also available that lead to a Bachelor of Science degree in radiologic technology that include sonography courses in the curriculum. Sonographers, also called ultrasound technologists and diagnostic medical sonographers, use ultrasound high-frequency sound waves to produce images of internal body tissues to help a physician diagnose and monitor a variety of conditions such as heart disease, pregnancy, and cancer. Specialty areas in sonography exist as well.


Cardiovascular technologists perform electrocardiography, ambulatory monitoring, and graded exercise diagnostic examinations, as well as basic x-ray and laboratory procedures. Cardiovascular technologists are employed in hospitals, cardiologists’ offices, cardiology mobile units, and many other health care facilities.




Obstetric-Gynecologic Sonography


Obstetric-gynecologic sonographers specialize in the study of the female reproductive system. Included in the discipline is one of the more well-known uses of sonography: examining the fetus of a pregnant woman to track the baby’s growth and health.


Courses in sonography usually include sonography techniques, acoustic physics, ultrasound for gynecology and obstetrics, medical sonography for abdominal and pelvic scanning, and diagnostic sonography for cardiopulmonary and neurologic specialties. In addition, the individual is involved in clinical practice using sonography equipment (Fig. 24-2).



Interventional radiographic procedures offer another avenue for career mobility. An angiographer works under the direction of a radiologist imaging blood vessels. Courses in special procedures include image processing, radiographic equipment, computer applications, management communications, emergency patient care procedures, medical-surgical diseases, imaging procedures in neurovascular and cardiovascular interventional radiography, CT with special emphasis on transsectional anatomy, clinical practice, and digital subtraction angiography.



Long-term educational commitment


A long-term higher educational decision should be influenced by present and future trends of the modality and profession. In addition, an assessment of personal skills and abilities and career requirements should be considered. Therefore examining the areas in radiology that can be entered is important, such as radiologist assistant, management, education, coding specialists, picture archiving and communication systems administrator, and computer science. The radiologic technologist has several choices. Some institutions offer carte blanche credits, which are discretionary credits awarded by an institution of higher learning for radiologic technology training, or credits may be earned through challenge examinations.


Successful people set and pursue clear goals for their career, with focused action plans to map their direction. These plans include developing the right connections, making better decisions, and creating an atmosphere of success to propel them on their career path. A career path plan requires a clear vision, a sense of purpose, and direction, which usually includes experience and or education. Career progression can be examined in terms of investment in human capital and its impact over the life cycle on earnings (Adda et al, 2003). Incremental earnings are measured using a starting point by determining the quantity and quality of full-time education, and the accumulation of human capital through on-the-job training (Lowenstein, Spletzer, 1997).


Formal education leads to increased lifetime wages because of the educational investment, but it also involves a substantial investment to start one’s career. On-the-job training is desirable because employees are trained in a specific area, which affects job procurement and job retention. Advantages are inherent to a college degree, including not only significant increases in subject matter knowledge, cognitive, intellectual skills and critical thinking, but also gains in value, attitudinal, psychosocial, and moral dimensions (Pascarella, Terenzini, 2005). Graduates holding baccalaureate degrees have a change regarding attitudes and values in social and political attitudes and in scholarly interest (Pascarella, Terenzini). Research shows that “compared with individuals who have no college experience, bachelor’s degree holders are two to three times more likely to volunteer in their communities, although the degree of involvement varies considerably across the kinds of service rendered” (Pascarella, Terenzini, p. 576). Other positive attributes of a college degree are more positive mind-set in regard to racial equality and increased understanding of cultures other than their own, a belief that racism remains a societal problem, and increased promotion of racial understanding (Pascarella, & Terenzini).



Radiologist assistant


In the 1990s, a shortage of practicing radiologists became evident, and predictions for an increased shortage in the twenty-first century were ominous. The predictions of a shortage became a reality in the twenty-first century, and in the summer of 2002, the American College of Radiology (ACR) decided to move forward in developing, with the ASRT and the ARRT, the radiologist assistant (RA) concept as a physician-extender specifically for radiologists. The first class of RA students began at Loma Linda University in California in the fall of 2004, graduating in 2006. The ASRT developed a standardized curriculum to include patient assessment, management and education, pharmacology, radiation safety, radiobiology, health physics, pathophysiology, and clinical preceptorship.

Mar 2, 2016 | Posted by in GENERAL RADIOLOGY | Comments Off on Professional Development and Career Advancement
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