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Anita Slechta, Professor of Health Sciences and Director of the Radiologic Technology Sciences Program (Rad Tech), was one of two educators elected to the House of Delegates of the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT) in 2009. She began a two year term this June. ASRT members help drive curriculum and set professionalism and safety standards in the field.
The largest allied health organization in the US, the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT) provides the scope of practice for the profession. The ASRT has a membership of over 120,000 medical imagers.
“ASRT member technologists from X-Ray to MRI to radiation therapy drive curriculum at the community college and university levels,” says Slechta. “Accrediting agencies rely on the ASRT to set standards for educational structure and the profession.” Slechta also served as chair of the professional curriculum committee for the Bachelor of Science in Radiological Technology for the ASRT.
As Chair of the Bachelor’s Program in Radiological Technology Sciences at CSUN she oversees a program that turns out graduates with advanced curriculum experience and advanced imaging skills. “We cover clinical skills in all areas of advanced imaging such as cardiac catheterization, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), vascular imaging and Computed Tomography,” Slechta says. “Our graduates prove successful in all areas of the medical imaging environment.”
Clinical education is a large part of coursework, and CSUN Rad Tech students intern all summer, 40 hours a week, Monday through Friday. Annually, seventy students rotate through practical work at eight professional affiliate sites. They learn all areas of the practice, including orthopedic procedures cardiac procedures, angiography, CT, and X-Ray. CSUN students put in 2500 hours of clinical internship in the last two and a half years at the following sites:
- UCLA / Santa Monica UCLA
- Northridge Hospital Medical Center
- Los Angeles Veterans’ Administration Hospital
- Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital
- Shriners’ Children’s Hospital
- Providence Holy Cross Hospital, Granada Hills
- USC Outpatient
- The University Hospital at USC
Education is the first step toward safety in these technologies, and licensure is crucial, and that’s where Selecta’s work with the ASRT coalesces with her job as faculty at CSUN. Though X-rays, CT Scans and MRI’s have become common procedures, they still present potential health risks, and their use calls for educated technologists. Technicians include Limited X-ray machine operators who are permitted in the state of California to work in clinics and urgent care centers.
Fully licensed Radiologic Technologists need the education and ability to respond to a variety of patient care needs. Major medical centers seek well educated imagers, and CSUN graduates are qualified and educated in all medical imaging procedures - including acute-care patient care. But from the neighborhood urgent care clinic to world renowned hospitals, there is a broad difference of opinion about what level of skill and education is considered professional grade.
“Since licensure isn’t mandated federally,” Slechta says, “Part of the work of the ASRT is to assess use of these technologies nationwide and encourage legislation for licensure at the state level.”
A casual approach to these technologies can be dangerous. “People don’t think about the fact that a CT scan actually uses more radiation than a simple X-ray of the chest,” Slechta says, “CT scans use thousands of units of radiation while a chest X- ray uses only hundreds.” Though most people are aware of the cancer risk from over-exposure, radiation burns are also a danger when imagers aren’t properly trained. As technology becomes increasingly user-friendly, operating the equipment has become push-button simple. But poor images can produce false negatives, failure to see a break, cyst, or tumor.
“It takes a trained eye, and skill with the technology, to recognize images that could turn out to be problematic,” Slechta says. “For example, routine screening for lung cancer is difficult, as lung cancers are fast growing, but mammography has proved highly effective because breast cancer tends to be very slow growing.”
Medical Imaging is changing fast as new technology emerges. And as health care is one of the few growing professions in today's economy, there is work for the new technologist, and there are new demands for multi-competent employees. Those who are already working in medical imaging can also benefit from the programs at CSUN.
"Other than the our programs at CSUN, there are no other certificate programs in place within the California State University system for advanced imaging education for the returning professional in the radiographic sciences," Slechta says. The required courses also count toward a baccalaureate degree, so they create a career path with room to move ahead.
(Photo: Lee Choo)