Your Path to Program Success: Expert Advice

A Salute to Radiologic Technologists Across the Country

Amy Newell, Vice President, Corazon, Inc., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Amy Newell, Vice President, Corazon, Inc., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Every year in November, the healthcare industry celebrates National Radiologic Technology Week, which includes a celebration of the clinical professionals working in this vital sub-specialty who focus on patient care and safety in the lab. This year’s theme is “Discovering the Inside Story”. Many of you may be able to recall exactly what, or perhaps who, prompted your decision to pursue this amazing profession — your own “inside story”! Perhaps you knew very early on that healthcare was the industry for you, but were uncertain whether your pursuit would lead you to nursing, phlebotomy, surgery, or one of many other allied healthcare career choices, or maybe, from the beginning, radiology appealed to you from among these many other clinical paths.  

Early in my career as a radiologic technologist (RT), I spent many years dedicated to saving lives as a team member in the cardiac catheterization laboratory. I fondly recall, throughout those years, the week each November where RTs were celebrated and appreciated, a week that was held aside to recognize our hard work and dedication to our patients, colleagues, and physicians. 

For the past 10+ years, I have continued to work alongside amazing and talented healthcare professionals, but in a different capacity, as a clinical consultant for Corazon, Inc. I have found a rewarding and gratifying career based on my beginnings as an RT. It has afforded me the opportunity to meet hundreds of radiology professionals who have made the career choice to save lives each and every day. These professionals very much deserve the celebration of their accomplishments and contributions within the cardiac cath lab.   

Contrary to the past, in today’s healthcare environment, it is not only through cardiac procedures that radiologic technologists are caring for and/or assisting with in this specialized area. In fact, Corazon continues to see the expansion of many other specialized areas such as electrophysiology, peripheral vascular, interventional radiology, and even complex procedures such as transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) being performed in what used to be considered the “traditional” cardiac cath lab with the assistance of RTs. 

The introduction of expanded, increasingly complex clinical services into the cath lab setting raises the bar for all clinicians. The RTs in the room must not only become adept in the operation of new equipment, technology, and supplies, but also must be adequately prepared to care for these often higher acuity patients within the traditional cath lab setting. Corazon has witnessed many organizations moving to a hybrid room platform — a trend that requires RTs to be knowledgeable well beyond the traditional cardiovascular patient. Those involved in the care of this expanded patient population must be committed to continuous professional growth and knowledge acquisition. Taking advantage of opportunities for learning, whether through national conferences, remote learning, or hands-on training in partner hospitals, will help to ensure that the RTs involved are prepared for any clinical scenario. Amid these expanding skill sets, radiologic technology remains a unique field requiring the “best of the best” as related to technical and clinical expertise. 

As we travel across the country and work with cardiovascular programs of all levels, we have begun to identify increasing numbers of radiologic technologists (and even registered nurses) that are pursuing advanced credentialing in order to become a registered cardiovascular invasive specialist (RCIS). As many of you know, this is a specialized credential for clinicians working within the interventional procedural suites, and carries with it superior recognition and accolades. The registered RCIS credential is the only credential that represents attainment of all the fundamental knowledge required to work in a cardiac catheterization laboratory. The Society of Invasive Cardiovascular Professionals (SICP) has developed a unified scope of practice for this role, which encompasses the responsibilities and functions normally reserved specifically for registered nurses and radiologic technologists in departments other than the cardiac catheterization laboratory.

Programs who employ a clinical ladder will often use this credential as a “rung” in achieving the next level on the ladder, allowing perhaps for a specialized title change or acknowledgment, as well as monetary increases to accompany this achievement. But, as with any advanced degree or credential, achieving the RCIS is not an easy task, most specifically due to the significant commitment of time and money. Clinicians report taking upwards of two years in preparing to sit for the exam. Those of you who have taken (or will be taking) this exam are to be commended! Given the opportunity for career and professional advancement, the $350 fee for the required exam is a good investment in the future for a cath lab professional.

In reflecting on my past working as a radiologic technologist within the cardiac catheterization lab, I often think of those patients that initially I thought of as a poor outcome solely based upon their clinical presentation, but whom we were able to save. Despite, or perhaps because of, the challenges presented by these patients, they hold a special place in my heart. Everything we worked so hard to achieve during those intense moments meant that the patient was able to have a bright future with their loved ones. We did, in fact, have a direct and positive impact on their life. As simplistic as that sounds, many of you (even as you read this) can recall a particular scenario of your own, where your expertise as a radiologic technologist helped save the life of a patient on the procedural table.  

In celebration of those many individuals working as radiologic technologists within cardiac catheterization labs across the country, I wanted to share a few programs that I have professionally and personally had the opportunity to work with over the years. Please join me in celebrating these and other radiologic technologist professionals who have committed their career to this dynamic specialty.  To those who have chosen the path in becoming a radiologic technologist, we wish you the very best today and into the future. Enjoy your special week!