Continuing education's diverse formats, topics and sources are helping radiologic technologists (RTs) fulfill their educational requirements -- in a variety of budgets, schedules and learning styles.
Each year, roughly 15,000 new and renewed continuing-education (CE) activities become available to RTs, estimates Becky Kruse, former director of continuing education for the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), which reviews approximately half of all the field's CE activities.
Search Your Options
When looking for CE, start with your own professional association. Most provide CE as a member service. Some, such as the ASRT, track member CE activities and submit records to the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). As the national organization that certifies radiologic professionals, the ARRT issues CE requirements but doesn't provide education itself.
At the ASRT's Online Learning Center, you can purchase courses in formats ranging from text to video webcasts. Studying, taking tests and receiving certification is all done online. By visiting the ASRT's Online Store, you can select courses and order them by mail or phone.
Commercial educational publishers and nonprofits such as universities, hospitals, healthcare organizations and clinics also offer CE. For a glimpse of what's out there, search the Internet for "radiology education." Prepare to be overwhelmed.
Once you've found the right CE option for you, determine whether it meets ARRT requirements. The ARRT currently designates nine radiologic associations as Recognized Continuing Education Evaluation Mechanisms (RCEEMs), which can deliver approved CE courses.
When reviewing a listing for a CE activity, look for a statement that the activity has been "Approved for Category A credit" by the ARRT or an RCEEM. If uncertain, contact the organization directly.
Online and Offline Study
Technology -- particularly the Internet -- has transformed training. "We're limited only by the bounds of our imagination," says Tom Kraker, MEd, RT(R), assistant executive director for the ARRT.
There's been an explosion of activity in Internet-based learning, Kraker says. Most online CE activities consist of stand-alone options similar in content to traditional home-study courses. Online courses are usually paperless, and some feature streaming video.
The convenience of these on-demand courses is a big draw, says Richard Terrass, MEd, RT(R), director of the graduate program in medical imaging at the MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston. "Some of these courses generate the certificate immediately, printing it out if the user passes the post-test," he says. "That's good for procrastinators."
Tried-and-true home-study courses, as well as directed readings from scholarly journals and official radiology association publications are offline options as time allows. CD-ROMs often represent updated, interactive versions of these CE standbys. Some offer enhanced graphics you can manipulate.
While effective, videotapes are losing popularity because of high production costs and healthcare professionals' preference for the interactivity of computer-based learning.
Some radiology equipment manufacturers have developed computer-operated interactive learning labs complete with phantom patients. In these simulated imaging centers, radiology professionals use imaging equipment to work through an entire scenario. As they move step-by-step through each procedure, a computer adjusts to and reports on the results of users' actions. The equipment does not emit radiation but otherwise works as it would in a radiology setting.
Pressing the Flesh
Nothing beats the human touch of association conferences, workshops, courses and lectures. "In-person learning is always valuable," Kraker says. "It's interactive, and you can ask questions."
Gatherings such as the ASRT's annual Radiation Therapy Conference have much to offer RTs. Held concurrently with the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology conference, the ASRT meeting offers healthcare professionals approved CE classes, plus intellectual stimulation, networking, a variety of conference topics and access to renowned specialists. In the exhibit halls, you can meet with leading vendors, recruiters and potential employers, which is impossible with home study.
With so many options available, it's easier than ever to meet CE requirements and stay current in your field. "Truly, in medicine, if you're not constantly learning, you're not providing the best care," Kruse says.