“Upgrading Your Technical Staff” – Medical Dealer Magazine August 2009
You may remember playing a game called “Telephone” or “Whispers” as a child. You get as many kids as you can to line up or sit in a circle so that they can whisper into the ear of their immediate neighbors. The player at the beginning of the line thinks of a phrase, and whispers it as quietly as possible to his neighbor. That neighbor then passes on the message to the next player and the passing continues until it reaches the player at the end of the line, who then announces to the group the message he or she received. In a successful game, the final message (comically) will bear little or no resemblance to the original, because of the cumulative effect of mistakes as the information was passed from person to person. You can see this same cumulative effect (not so comical) on technical information being passed from technologist to technologist over the years. None of this is done purposely – it’s just the way it happens.
As every experienced director, manager, supervisor and staff technologist knows, turnover in staff means lost knowledge and experience. Frequently, the staff that was originally trained by the manufacturer on the equipment is no longer there and that technical knowledge may not have been completely passed down to the current staff. Even more common is the case of long standing technologists who may have not had any new training for many years and may feel stagnant and unchallenged. For instance, it may be that your staff has been using the MR scanner for 5 or 6 years and demonstrate that they are proficient and comfortable with the system. Perhaps it’s been 5 or 6 years since the original applications training took place and over time, aspects of that training may have been forgotten.
Having an applications specialist revisit your facility to work with your staff can result in a better understanding of the system sequence parameters, protocol optimization and image quality improvements. Even the technologist who thinks there is nothing new to learn has been heard to remark “I learned things that I didn’t even know I didn’t know!”
Updating the knowledge and skills base of the technical staff is an additional avenue to keep current with advances in all areas of diagnostic imaging technology. This option is often overlooked or undervalued even though it can be one of the most cost effective methods of upgrading your existing imaging services. The return on the investment in applications training for the technologists and radiologists will allow you to re-introduce your center’s expertise to the community.
An evaluation of the system options, especially in CT and MR, can bring to light features that were originally purchased but have not been used. Often times, a new scanner is purchased with additional applications, such as Cardiac or Advanced Neuro imaging options, with a vision to the future that didn’t come to fruition initially. This year’s trend as seen new equipment purchases and even upgrades being put on hold which leaves the challenge of how to make the existing equipment last longer. Now is a great time to take a look at what you have, what you are not using and investigate how you can do better with what you have. Taking this opportunity to educate and refresh the clinical skills of the technologists on the existing equipment requires a relatively small investment in dollars and time. It will result in a renewed interest by the staff and ensure the equipment is being operated to the best of its ability.
Radiology technologists have been fighting the age-old battle to be recognized as professionals by the medical community. One of the strongest actions we can take is to promote continuing education and hands-on skills training to stay at the top of our profession. Another option to promote training and professional activities is to advocate joining one of the organizations available to radiology technologists. The annual memberships to these organizations are usually under $100 and the membership includes a number of CE credits per year. For example, the ASRT (American Society of Radiological Technologists) membership is $105.00 per year and includes 12 Directed Reading CE activities. The cost of an annual membership to the SMRT (Section for Magnetic Resonance Technologists) is $80.00 and also includes 12 Directed Reading CE activities. Again, offering to pay the membership for your technologist staff is a relatively low-cost method of showing support and appreciation for your staff and their technical knowledge.
There is a plethora of free continuing education activities available in the form of e-learning activities and web casts these days. These activities can keep you and your staff up to date on the latest procedures and advances in the imaging modalities. The last thing a technologist may feel like doing in the evening at the end of a long day, is sit down at the computer and spend 45 minutes to an hour participating in an education activity. The majority of technologists are interested in learning new things and will take it upon themselves to find and complete these activities. Allotting a certain amount of time during the work day for your technologists to complete these activities can be a fairly easy, low-cost method of showing support for your staff, especially if there are slow times in the patient schedule. To meet the annual certification requirements, that’s only 12 hours out of the 2040 hours a full-time technologist will work in a year’s time.
Upgrading your technical staff
Use the support and promotion of continuing education for your technical staff as an advantage to increase your market share in the area by advertising the addition of a new procedure or spotlighting the expertise of your staff. A policy of support for education and training is can set you apart from the competition and demonstrates that your facility is doing what is in the best interest of your employees, your patients, and your community.