PACS curricula help job applicants make the grade

September 24, 2001

While the rapid expansion of digital radiology in the past decade has led to a shortage of qualified administrators and technicians, it has also spawned a number of schools to train healthcare workers in the new skills necessary to operate digital

While the rapid expansion of digital radiology in the past decade has led to a shortage of qualified administrators and technicians, it has also spawned a number of schools to train healthcare workers in the new skills necessary to operate digital radiology departments.

Schools such the PACS Administrator Training School run by SG&A Consulting have emerged.

Now, radiologic technologists (RT), many of whom face the same experience gap when applying for jobs in filmless radiology departments, have a PACS school of their own.

El Camino College in Torrance, CA, has incorporated a curriculum into its existing Radiologic Technology Program (RTP) designed to provide prospective radiologic technologists with training and experience with PACS and digital imaging modalities, beginning with computed radiography (CR) systems.

"To our knowledge, we are the first college to have a complete CR capability - modality, archive, workstation, and PACS," said Donald Visintainer, professor and RTP program director.

The catalyst of the PACS/CR program was the realization that El Camino was not keeping up with technology.

"If we believe what we say in our mission statement - that we're to prepare well-qualified imaging practitioners - then we're obligated to provide the opportunity to fulfill that objective," Visintainer said. "When none of the vendors could provide me with an RT program as a reference site, I knew that I was at the leading edge of technology."

In support of the program, El Camino, a Los Angeles-area community college, purchased and installed a Kodak DirectView CR 800 system, a PACS that includes a digital archive, a two-monitor review workstation, and a Kodak DryView 8100 laser imaging system. The college also purchased a laser film digitizer to convert existing film studies into a digital format for storage and access from the digital archive.

Kodak is supplying imaging studies, as well as training and presentation materials

During the course of study, students learn to use the CR system to create images from phantoms. Students then review and enhance the images on the PACS workstation. Visintainer grades students based on a soft-copy review of their images.

"Our goal is to teach students how to capture a good quality image, and how to enhance it," Visintainer said. "We want students to be able to use digital tools to create an optimal image for radiologists to review."

In addition to training current students, the college plans to launch community training courses for working radiologic technologists and has asked several local Kodak personnel to serve as guest lecturers.