National Radiologic Technology Week Is an Opportunity

November 9, 2015
Michael Latimer, MSRS, RT(R)

For National Radiologic Technology Week, reminding students what health care is all about.

It’s that time of year again. Early November marks National Radiologic Technology Week. The annual celebration recognizes the vital work of RTs across the nation. It takes place each year during the week that includes Nov. 8 to commemorate the discovery of the X-ray by Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen on Nov. 8, 1895.

Radiologic technologists throughout the country celebrate NRTW in a variety of ways. Some RTs have parties, some use it as an opportunity to teach other health care professionals about medical imaging and radiation therapy procedures, and some use it as a tool to educate the public about the radiologic sciences. Regardless of the tactics, they all have a common goal – calling attention to the important role medical imaging and radiation therapy professionals play in health care and patient safety.

As president-elect of the Board of Directors of the American Society of Radiologic Technologists, I understand the importance of a week dedicated to recognizing the hard-working professionals in radiologic technology. However, it’s also important to note that we should all try to recognize our profession throughout the year. I try to practice this every day by teaching my students critical lessons about teamwork, communication, and patient care. I only have a short time with them, so I start on day one, and I talk about it from the moment they walk in.

For me, besides understanding the science and technology of medical imaging, there are three critical skills my students should walk away with: the importance of working together as a team, improving communication with radiologists and making sure patients have the best experience possible. In a world as focused on technology as ours, some might call these “soft skills,” but I call them essential.

First, we have to make sure we’re doing the right thing for the patient. With few exceptions, my students are in this profession because they have a desire to help people. Early on, they sometimes lack confidence in their skills. They worry about the many steps it takes to perform the procedure correctly, and sometimes, they forget about the patient. I tell them, even if you don’t know anything, you can still make someone comfortable. It only takes a minute to answer a question, or bring them a blanket. Patients should never be an inconvenience.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"43152","attributes":{"alt":"Michael Latimer, MSRS, RT(R)","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_4177276337098","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"4699","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"height: 286px; width: 200px; border-width: 0px; border-style: solid; margin: 1px; float: right;","title":"Michael Latimer, MSRS, RT(R)","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

I also spend a lot of time teaching the importance of staying up to date on technological advances. This is vital as some describe the profession as high tech and high touch, and that’s pretty accurate. It’s a balancing act between understanding the complex and rapidly evolving technology and keeping the focus on the patient experience.

Teamwork is another critical skill I teach my students, and my lessons on teamwork are always integrated into practical application. When they face challenges in the lab, I encourage them to work together. Many of the obstacles they face can be overcome if they pull together and help each other out.

Here’s an example: Some of my students struggle with the physics required in my classes, others do really well. I encourage those with a good grasp of the subject to share information and help the other students who struggle. In the classroom and in the workplace, we can all learn from one another.

Exceptional health care is the result of a team of dedicated professionals working together for an optimum outcome. While many professions encourage star players, I believe team players get better results.

In the early stages of their training, some of my students tell me they struggle with finding the poise to speak confidently with physicians, radiologists, and other members of the imaging team. I tell them that it’s only natural that a first-year student might have doubts about their own lack of experience when speaking with other members of the patient care team.

I encourage my students to keep open lines of communication with the requesting physician. We’re all professionals and I remind them that everyone they work with from radiologists to nurses wake up in the morning and pulls on their scrubs the same way they do, so don’t be afraid to speak up and share your expertise.

So now that it’s NRTW, what a great opportunity to reinforce what I’ve already gone over with my students who started in January. For me it’s an important reminder of the critical skills necessary for our profession, and a great reminder of the important contributions of radiologic technologists in the health care setting.