If you’re studying to be a radiologic technologist, you know that working in a clinical setting will be an integral part of your education. Such experience helps solidify your clinical skills, build professional contacts and prepare you for the working world. How can you get the most out of this critical learning experience? Clinical coordinators at three radiologic technology programs have these suggestions.
1. Understand Expectations
Know what the instructors expect. Clinical instructors at Los Angeles City College (LACC) prepare rad tech students for clinical education with an orientation class and a briefing session. Use opportunities such as these to question instructors directly before starting the job, suggests Ed Vasquez, RT(R), chair of the college’s radiologic technology program.
2. Treat Clincal Ed Like a Job
Act like an employee, not a student. “We tell our students that they are there to work, and need to work right alongside employees,” says Elizabeth Greer, BS, RT(R), clinical coordinator of the radiologic sciences program at the University of New Mexico. That means calling in when you’re sick, presenting a doctor’s note for absences, clocking in and out, counting your work hours, and attending staff in-service sessions.
3. Vive la Différence
While rotating through designated clinical education sites, observe the different clinical settings, as well as the variety of examinations, radiologic equipment and protocols. At the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) School of Allied Health Professions, students even complete a rural rotation, says Connie Mitchell, MA, RT(R)(CT), assistant professor of radiography and program director for the university’s Division of Radiation Science Technology Education.
4. Assess the Patients and Pace
Do you like walky-talky (i.e., ambulatory) patients? Or do you get a rush from the intensity of trauma patients, following them from the ER to the OR to intensive care? Do you like a high patient volume or prefer a slower pace? Now is this chance to see what you prefer.
5. Gain Experience
“There are no two patients alike, and no two examinations are performed identically,” says Mitchell, president of the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT). “Each procedure you perform builds on your knowledge and proficiency.” That, in turn, boosts your self-confidence.
6. Sharpen Skills
Use your critical thinking, patient assessment, exposure and positioning knowledge. Listen, observe and learn from the experienced technologists, Mitchell says.
7. Develop Relationships
Besides mastering clinical competencies, cultivate solid working relationships. At LACC, the clinical coordinator and onsite instructor evaluate students on their interpersonal relationships with staff members and other students. “Every department has a personality, and you have to fit in, or you’re not going to be a happy worker,” Vasquez says. Employers want a cohesive team and will look for that fit in a student.
8. Build a Reputation
“You are being scrutinized with the possibility of being hired from the time you walk in the door,” says Greer, who serves on the ASRT’s bachelor’s curriculum revision committee. Your behavior on the job is your best route to a job offer.
9. Take the Initiative
Stellar students are more assertive, Vasquez says. They take the initiative. Take the knowledge you have and apply it. If you want your clinical site to hire you, speak up. Introduce yourself to the supervisor, convey your interest in working there and ask about potential openings. About half of UNMC’s rad tech graduates wind up working at one of their clinical education sites, Mitchell says.
10. See Your Future
Constant changes in medical imaging technology mean that institutions are moving from film to filmless to digitized images. You need to be computer-savvy, understand how new technology works and be familiar with the new equipment. While in clinicals, make sure you’re learning everything the staff is learning.