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A Focus on Comprehensive Radiology Education | NEWS-Line for Radiology Professionals
NEWSRoom | Source:  

A Focus on Comprehensive Radiology Education

Since Elaine Halesey, Ed.D., Registered Technologist (Radiography), joined the staff at College Misericordia in Dallas, Pennsylvania, one of her main goals has been to make the Radiography program as comprehensive as possible – in both course offerings and clinical experience. There are different paths a person can take toward a profession in
radiography, and "they vary from soup to nuts," she says.

Each path offers different things and has different advantages. Halesey herself got her start in radiography through a two-year Associate Degree program at College Misericordia, where today she is Associate Professor and Department Chairperson/Program Director of the Radiography program. Another path is the two-year, hospital-based program, in which a hospital trains students to perform the specific radiological techniques and routines that meet its needs. Both of these have the advantage of making available greater numbers of trained people, for a field with many job openings to be filled.

The third route is that of the Bachelor's degree in Radiography, a four-year college course - the route that Halesey directs at Misericordia. She has been Program Director at Misericordia for 15 years. "I had started in the field with the Associate degree," she notes, "but I realized I wanted more, and went back to school for my Bachelor's degree. Then, just nine months after completing my B.S. degree, I was hired to the position of Program Director (and Department Chair). I felt that this was a good opportunity to effect change, since I had first-hand knowledge of the program."

For example, she explains, "student scores on the ARRT [American Registry of Radiologic Technologists] exam in 1984 were poor; I was committed to improving them. We had about a 48% pass rate, a faculty of two and a part-time secretary. We began working on the curriculum, making changes, and watching to see if those changes were working or not. By 1988, we had a 90% pass rate, and in 1989, we hit 100%. Between October, 1988, and October, 1998, we have had 156 students sit for the ARRT exam and 153 passed it on the first attempt. Now, we have a faculty of five and a full-time secretary. We have a real solid curriculum, and we're real proud of our pass rate."
Describing one of the pluses of the four-year curriculum, Halesey says, "the big buzzword today is multi-skilling. Many employers want radiographers who can do CAT scans, MRIs, or ultrasounds, in addition to general radiography." Having four years of schooling available, she says, gives students a broader range of classes and allows the time for them to complete an internship.

In their junior year, the students select three areas they're interested in, and would like to hear more about, Halesey explains. They listen to presentations of each of these related skills, observe in three different areas of their choice, and then choose one, in which they will complete an internship during their senior year. Some of the specializations available for this concentration (in addition to CAT scans, MRIs and ultrasound) are cardiac catheterization, mammography, nuclear medicine, radiation therapy, and, Halesey says, "in the fall, we will be adding bone densitometry." She says that the number of fields offered each year depends on how many sites she can procure for the school.

A senior year internship involves working full days for two days each week during the student's senior year from August through May. The student intern is expected to pass competency exams, on site, and is visited and observed several times during working hours by a faculty member. While radiography is the only professional exam that Halesey's department is accredited to let students sit for, this concentration in advanced fields gives them a real head start if they choose further specialty education or pursue employment.

"Twelve of our seniors walked out of here May 15, and six of them are going on to specialty schools," she reports. "Two nuclear medicine students were accepted by Johns Hopkins University, three others are also going to Johns Hopkins in ultrasound, and the sixth is going to Gwynedd-Mercy for radiation therapy. We have a fantastic rate of acceptance in accredited specialty schools. I'm very pleased that so many of our students want to go and pursue formal education in an accredited advanced imaging modality, beyond radiography, so that they will have a dual certification."

Along with graduating top-quality students, Halesey has a very strong commitment to the accompanying goal of maintaining the top-quality education that produces them. "Currently, Pennsylvania has the largest number of RTs in the country," Halesey says. This is most likely a direct result of the fact that "Pennsylvania also has the greatest number of accredited radiography programs in the U.S.," she adds, "followed by Texas, California, and New York."
"Our program is accredited by the JRCERT (Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology). For a long time, they were the only game in town that accredited radiography programs. In order to take the ARRT exam, you had to have graduated from a JRCERT-accredited school.

"Recently, the ARRT said that they would also allow students to take the exam if they had graduated from a regionally accredited school. There's an enormous difference between the two types of accreditation, though," Halesey emphasizes. "The regional organization is really an overall institutional-accrediting body, not a program-accrediting body. The regional group is a wonderful thing and they're doing a fine job at what they do, but they're not supposed to look just at specific programs,or hold me, as a program director, responsible - and I'd actually rather be held responsible.
"JRC, on the other hand, asks the program director and faculty to write a self-study, and they have 11 standards with which you must be in compliance, with objectives under each. As you make sure you're in compliance with each part of the requirements," Halesey points out, "things invariably occur to you that you might not have thought of before - ways to improve.
"It can be expensive to be accredited by the JRC," she continues, "because the school has to pay all of the expenses for the site visit by representatives, - and then there are yearly fees of a few thousand dollars, depending on the scope of your program. But we get great suggestions from the JRC when they come on site, and we view them as assisting us, not challenging us. In that light, then it's absolutely worth it in the end.

"One if the things that we're the proudest of," she says, "is that we always try to stay aware of current literature, research, and the direction that the field is taking. We were offering our seniors internships ten years ago, allowing them to become cross-trained in a specialty area, before multi-skilling was even on the scene. When venipuncture and pharmacology came out as suggested curriculum additions, we implemented them; we never wait until something is mandated. We've also added a research methods course, an advanced imaging course, and an issues in radiography course. We make sure that we keep pace, and whenever possible, try to be proactive, not just reactive."

There are two main points that Halesey says she'd like to emphasize to others within the profession. One is that she wants those who have passed the ARRT radiography exam not to call themselves "technicians". When a person passes the radiography exam, he or she "becomes a 'Registered Technologist (R).' This is the official designation," Halesey says. "If they pass the mammography exam, then the designation would be 'Registered Technologist (R) (M).' I really wish we could get RTs to stop calling themselves 'technicians.' Some of the other terms used are 'Radiology Technician,' and 'X-ray Technician,' but 'Registered Technologist' is the preferred term," she says.
The other point is that Halesey believes everyone in the profession should encourage licensure of RTs by every state. Some states license RTs and some do not, "but licensure would cut back on the number of non-RTs taking X rays," she says. "I think you should be an RT in order to get a license, and you should be licensed in order to get a job [in the field]." This, she says, would benefit the patient, the hospitals and clinics that perform radiography, and the profession as a whole.

Elaine DiRisio Halesey earned her Ed.D. in Higher Education from Nova Southeastern University, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, in 1997; she earned her Master of Science degree in Human Services Administration from College Misericordia, Dallas, PA, in 1986; she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Radiologic Technology,with a concentration in Education, from Bloomsburg University, Bloomsburg, PA, in 1983, graduating Magna Cum Laude. Halesey also attended College Misericordia, where she completed studies for an Associate in Applied Science degree in Radiologic Technology, in 1978. She is the 1996 first-place winner of the NYCOMED, Inc., Scientific writing competition, the 1997 second-place winner, and the 1998 third-place winner. Halesey's first-place winning manuscript was published in the professional periodical, Radiologic Technology. She also has a manuscript on continuing education that will be published in this summer's edition of Radiologic Science & Education. She is active in numerous professional and community organizations.

Michael Samsot is a freelance writer in Fairfax City, VA. She is on the Editorial Staff of NEWSLine for Radiology Professionals.

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