The 54th class of the School of Radiologic Technology at CVPH Medical Center graduated in June. The six candidates finished out the final three months of the program with virtual instruction due to the pandemic but the school’s instruction team was able to adapt to a scenario they weren’t expecting and give the students every learning opportunity possible. The 55th class is back in clinicals now and the 56th class started in July.
The school is run by a team of graduates of the program — Betsy Lombard is the director, Marla Garcia is the school’s clinical coordinator and Jessica Hanson is the clinical instructor. Lombard called them a “tripod”, saying the school could not operate without all three of them. “Just because I’m the director doesn’t mean I’m more important. It just means I’m the front line of defense,” she explained. “My job is to remove barriers and support my co-workers and the students.”
The program, which is run out of Medical Office Building 210 on the CVPH Campus, is a full-time, two-year program that accepts up to 14 students per year. Students have classroom work, coupled with hands-on experience in a clinical setting at a number of partner sites around the area.
An articulation agreement between the school and SUNY Empire State College allows students to earn an Associate’s degree in math, science and technology upon completion of the program. They then sit for an exam to earn their certification as a radiologic technologist (rad tech) which is recognized nationwide. In the past three years, 100% of program graduates were employed within six months.
“Radiology is like an umbrella for medical imaging,” Garcia explained. It allows you to see inside the body, whether it is bones, vessels or tissues using different modalities such as x-rays, MRIs, ultrasound, nuclear medicine, or mammography. Some of these modalities use ionizing radiation, others use sound waves or magnetics. Students learn the basics of radiology, gain an understanding of the human anatomy and how the body functions and are also taught the fundamentals of patient care. They can then pursue further training in specific modalities such as mammography, which is where Garcia worked for five years before joining the CVPH team in 2005.
STEP BY STEP
Lombard graduated from the CVPH Radiology School in 1981 and went to work full-time at the Medical Center. Ten years later she decided she wanted to earn an Associate’s degree, an option that was not available to her in 1980. She took courses through SUNY Empire State, earning a degree in Science and Technology. “For the next 20 years I was a college student,” she said with a hearty laugh. Her second Associate’s degree was in Business from Clinton Community College, then a Bachelor’s degree in Business and finally a Master’s degree in Leadership and Administration both from SUNY Plattsburgh. (Lombard and her daughter both earned their Master’s degrees in 2014.) She became the director of the Radiology School in January 2018.
A REWARDING CAREER
Garcia was drawn to the radiology program out of a desire to help people and a love of science. Her role as the clinical coordinator allows her to combine a love of teaching with a passion for radiology and helping others. “I love the connections I make with small groups of students for two full years,” she emphasized. “You’re not just teaching a class, you’re helping someone mold a whole career.”
Hanson sbegan the program in 2000, a few weeks after graduating from high school. “The medical field and helping people were something I always saw myself doing,” she said. After working as a rad tech from 2002-2013 she applied for the clinical instructor position, which was part-time at that point. In 2015, a site visit by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) determined that it would benefit the school and the students if the clinical instructor position was full time. Hanson applied for the job and enrolled in coursework to earn her Bachelor’s degree, a requirement for the position. She earned her degree in Community Science with a concentration in Health and Wellness through Empire State College in 2018. “I take pride in teaching the x-ray students. I love being able to share my knowledge with them. I also enjoy that each year with a new group of students is different and the learning continues.”
SPREADING THE WORD
While Lombard, Hanson and Garcia are the educational team, they are also the marketing team for the Radiology program. “In such a small program, we have the opportunity to flex skills. We do advertising, recruiting, onboarding, and HR,” Lombard said. They promote the program through career fairs at colleges and local high schools, do Facebook marketing and have placed marketing materials in the waiting areas around the hospital network. “Word of mouth still continues to be a great marketing tool for us,” Garcia said. “The majority of students enter the program right out of high school but we also get students who are looking for a second career.”
Students submit application materials, are interviewed by the staff and observe an 8-hour shift before they are accepted in the program. This year, however, the in-person observation component was limited by the pandemic. “Currently we have some students who were not able to spend time in a clinical setting but they have fit into the program well,” Lombard said.
As they interview potential students, Garcia explained they are looking for specific personality traits that are critically important for the profession: empathy, compassion and a desire to help people. It is also important that students be able to make connections and communicate well.
Serving the North Country for 37 Years “Growing up in this community, going to school here at CVPH and being able to give back is the most rewarding thing for me,” Hanson explained. “I’m thankful to have a job as an educator to help students learn and grow like I did in a place that is so caring and helpful to patients.”
Lombard loves the profession because, “As you bring a patient from the waiting room who likely is worried about test results, you can put them at ease and gain their trust. You get to make a difference in a patient’s life. It is in short, small doses, but it is no less impactful.”
School of Radiologic Technology Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital, UVM Health Network
210 Cornelia Street
The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) is the only agency recognized by the United States Department of Education for the accreditation of Schools of Radiology. Site visits to maintain accreditation are conducted every five years. A site visit and accreditation review of the CVPH program happened in January of this year. The accreditation has six standards and 53 objectives that must be met. The school must submit a report in advance of the site visit that addresses each of the standards and objectives in essay form with supporting documentation.
Site visitors are volunteers who are either program directors or clinical coordinators. They come for a two-day visit, tour the facility, interview staff and students, and get clarifications on anything in the report. They leave “no stone unturned,” Garcia said. The JRCERT accreditation is ultimately a litmus test for academic quality. The process comes with the opportunity for self-examination and improvements.
The CVPH school did very well on the 2020 review and has received a five-year accreditation.