MRI Technologist Aides Are a Critical Link in a Successful Chain – Medical Dealer Magazine November 2009
Hospitals and imaging centers throughout the United States have reduced costs by cutting back on staff and some other necessities to the point that all these reductions could potentially have a negative effect on the level of care being given to their patients. We have seen an unprecedented rise in MRI accidents, up 277 percent, which safety expert Tobias Gilk, president of MedNovus, believes is a gross underestimate, since not nearly all cases are reported. (See last month’s article in Medical Dealer).
We are also seeing a serious rise in Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) cases originating in the MR scanner from the unclean pads, the table, and equipment in and around the scanner. Dr. Peter Rothschild’s ground-breaking white paper, “Preventing Infection in MRI: Best Practices for Infection Control in and Around MRI Suites,” points out the inadequacies of infection control in medical imaging and has led the way for those interested in the highest level of patient care. Between the increased number of MRI accidents, the rise of MRSA cases, and the tight schedules mandated to the MRI technologists, something had to give.
The most successful imaging centers have been taught or discovered that every moment the MRI technologist is not operating the equipment, they are losing money. Every time the technologist steps away from the scanner to change a patient, review a history-screening sheet with the patient, wait for a patient to finish up in the bathroom, start an IV, find previous films or confirm a physician order, scanning has stopped.
Now, add to that cleaning the table pads, cleaning the bore of the magnet, changing the linens between cases, changing the coils, and table setup, in addition to tight schedules, and the pressure for MRI technologists can be insurmountable. Keep in mind: It’s unethical for the technologist to step away from control of the scanner with a patient in the machine, and leave nobody to mind the operation of the equipment or to monitor the patient. To expect an MRI technologist to attend to a secondary patient while one is being scanned is not an appropriate standard of patient care. Add a technologist aide to the formula, and you will have a greater recipe for success.
All of the duties mentioned above, such as initially screening a patient for MRI compatibility, changing the patient out of street clothes, cleaning the bore of the magnet between cases, changing the table setup, spraying down and drying the coils used, cleaning the pads utilized, and getting the patients to the restroom, can all be done by someone other than the MRI technologist. Changing a patient out of street clothes is typically one of the timesaving shortcuts that can have a tremendously negative effect on patient care.
What’s more, not only do street clothes hide unknown projectiles, they’re also often dirty and leave behind the dirt, metal shavings, pet hair, and various other viruses in the scanner. An excellent tech aide can be trained to have a thorough understanding of MRI safety, which includes the range of contraindications, the perimeter safety zones, and the necessity of restricting access to the MRI exam room. In some states, a tech aide can be trained in phlebotomy and could be starting IV access on the patients who will be getting a contrast injection. (This option should be thoroughly investigated and compliance to facility, local and state laws should be observed.)
The fiscal return on one full-time equivalent MRI technologist aide making $15 per hour pays for a return on investment eight times over when you are able to add just one case per day to your schedule. One year’s salary will be approximately $31,200. When given the ability to add one case per day, your income stream could increase $250,000 per year. With efficiency increased, your schedule will run on time and allow more openings. The technologist aide can also be useful to confirm the next-day appointments and perform a simple MRI compatibility pre-screening. This can significantly reduce the number of “no-shows” on the schedule, thus maintaining productivity. Three simple questions to ask when confirming appointments ahead of time are the big safety issues:
1. “Do you have a pacemaker?”
2. “Do you have an aneurysm clip?”
3. “Are you claustrophobic?”
The technologist aide is an integral part of the team that facilitates a smooth stream of patients in a successfully operating MRI department. They can be part public relations, when dealing with untimely schedules and late appointments; part housecleaning, when cleaning table pads, the MRI bore, table setup, the changing rooms, and even the MRI scanner room; and part medical assistant, when reviewing the patient’s history sheet, helping patients change clothes, and even starting an IV.
MRI Technologist Aides Are a Critical Link in a Successful Chain
Traditionally, all of these roles fall on the shoulders of the MRI technologist, whose sole focus should be on getting the best images possible for the patient. After all, it’s very difficult for one to focus on that single priority when distractions occur from other issues on upcoming patients. The role of the aide can be a welcome relief for the busy MRI technologist, improve your safety regimen, and help provide infection control for the MRI department.