Six Questions with the New President of the California Society of Radiologic Technologists

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This week marks the 35th anniversary of National Rad Tech Week. In San Diego, the California Society of Radiologic Technologists will be celebrating at its annual meeting on November 8 and 9, with a city proclamation and the swearing in of their latest president, David Poon, CRT, RT (R), ARRT, senior staff technologist at the UCSF Medical Center and Benioff Children’s Hospital.   Here, David answers questions about continuing education, patient advocacy, the demands on radiologic technologists and Rad Tech Week.

Q:   You frequently offer peers guidance on radiology curriculum. Do you feel medical education is evolving to address patient experience and satisfaction in the radiologic technologist profession?
The days of obtaining continuing medical education (CME) units on any topic are long gone.  For example, the Radiologic Health Branch of California, which oversees licensure and mandates for radiographers, recently passed CME requirements of specific courses to complete as part of licensure for imaging professionals. Radiologic technologist certification now requires 4 hours of CME in digital imaging. If you hold a California fluoroscopy permit, you must obtain 4 CME hours in radiation protection. There are also additional requirements if you hold mammography certifications.

Nationally, CME courses do include courses that address patient experience. However, I’m seeing a different curriculum change locally that is much more patient outcome based.

The expectation of the imaging professional is to not only have the fundamental understanding of digital imaging, but also radiation protection, biology and emerging technologies and techniques.

Q:  Pediatric imaging can be particularly demanding. What is unique about being a technologist at a children’s hospital?
Working with pediatric patients can be very challenging. Parents are often very nervous and anxious. Technologists must manage both an anxious parent and a pediatric patient who is often upset and non-compliant.

Pediatric technologists need to be patient and think outside the box.  When working with a pediatric patient, I assess how old the patient is and depending on the patient, I might make a game out of the exam. I might also speak to the patient about their favorite hobbies, toys, television shows or books to get their minds off of the exam

What is unique working in a Children’s Hospital is that I see patients from all over country.  I witness a lot of resilience with many of these patients. Some of them are very sick, and to see them go through a very challenging time in their young lives is inspirational.

Q:  How can a technologist ensure they are acting as a patient’s advocate?
Radiographers need to be active patient advocates. I tell the radiology students I work with that they have entered a profession in which the patient has entrusted us with their care.  It is imperative that we not only be a patient advocate, but an active participant in their care.  Some steps I recommend in day-to-day work include:

  • Ensure the proper exam is ordered on the correct patient. Physicians and providers are very busy. As a result, sometimes they could have ordered the wrong exam on the wrong patient and/or the wrong body part. When speaking with the patient, I will confirm which body part/side is being imaged. If a patient is unable to communicate, I will check with the patient’s RN to validate the order.
  • Follow the policies and protocols at your place of employment. This may seem like a moot point. However, I have witnessed technologist make up protocols for the sake of ending a difficult exam. If a physician ordered knee exam with oblique views, and you only perform AP and Lateral views, you are not being a patient advocate.  Protocols are written for a reason and as professionals, we need to ensure that the correct exams are being performed, no matter how difficult the patient is.  If there is an exam that you cannot obtain, the best approach is to inform the ordering provider and/or speak to the radiologist.
  • Be a super communicator. Good communication goes beyond informing the RN that the patient needs to use the bathroom. You have to be observant of the patient’s health status. If you see the patient having an increase in labored breathing, this could be a sign that the patient’s health is deteriorating.  Not only should you inform the patient’s RN, but you should ask if they need assistance. By being an active participant, not only will you help with the patient’s care, but you may also end up saving a life.

Q:  What do you wish radiologists knew about technologists?
I am fortunate enough to work with great team of imaging professionals. I think it is important for radiologists to know:

  • Technologists try our very best in making every image count!
  • We strive to ensure that we provide the best patient care.
  • We are patient advocates!
  • We are the first line of defense when it comes to radiation protection of the patient.
  • We try to make the patient as comfortable as possible without jeopardizing the quality of the images.

Imaging is a very intriguing field. We are both the “eyes of medicine.”  Radiologists and technologists together play a vital role in patient care.

Q:  You’re a believer in mentorship. What makes a good mentor?  What should a technologist look for?
A good mentor is not only friendly, but willing to the extra mile in taking that person underneath their wing.  A good mentor isn’t about just showing or telling. It is a person who makes an investment in educating a person.

When I work with student, I educate them on positioning, technique, and radiation protection.  I have them perform the exam and am patient with mistakes, as long as they learn from them and don’t repeat them.  This takes a lot of energy and time. However, being a mentor requires an enormous amount of responsibility.  Look for an experienced, patient technologist who can help you better serve the patient.

Q:  With Rad Tech Week underway, what suggestions do you have for others to honor the technologists in their facility?
National Radiologic Technologist Week is very special for the imaging community. It celebrates our profession, but more importantly, it recognizes the important work we do every day. Some of the things that have helped me celebrate Rad Tech Week in the past include:

  • Writing a letter to my legislators to request they cognize radiologic technology week with an official city or county proclamation.
  • Working with local professional organizations or my hospital’s PR and marketing team to create public about the important work we do through media articles
  • Visiting my alma mater to speak with students about the importance of medical imaging and the responsibility it carries to be an imaging technologist.

Looking for additional ways to celebrate National Radiologic Technologist Week? There’s still time.  You can find staff event and community awareness ideas on the American Society of Radiologic Technologist Website.

david-poonDavid Poon, CRT, RT (R), ARRT, is a senior staff technologist at the UCSF Medical Center and Benioff Children’s Hospital. He was recently elected and sworn in as the newest president of the California Society of Radiologic Technologists (CSRT).



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