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Interview with Randy Prouty, Chairman of the Board of Nebraska Society of Radiologic Technologists

Randy Prouty is the former Chairman of the Board of the Nebraska Society of Radiologic Technologists. In the following interview, Prouty discusses the beginnings of his career and how he found the right career. He also reflects the growth of his career as a radiologic technologist when he highlights his experience as a collaborator on a white paper with other technologists throughout the United States.

What event or series of events led you to pursue the field of radiology as your professional choice? Please elaborate.

randy-proutyI was a student at a local community college nearing the end of my sophomore year. I had not declared a major because I did not know what I wanted to do. At the time, I was taking classes in both science and mathematics. The dean of student services called me into his office and asked what I was going to do after graduation. When I told him that I didn’t have a plan, he pulled my aptitude scores and saw that I did well in math and science. He told me abut a program at our local hospital that taught radiologic technology. I did not know anything about the program but was familiar with the hospital because my grandmother worked there as a purchasing agent. I spent many Saturdays helping my grandmother stack boxes of saline solutions. So that very afternoon he got me an interview with the program director and I have loved it for the past 33 years.

Name 1 or 2 guidelines you would offer the radiology professional just entering the field?

First of all, I would recommend finding a school that is certified by the JRCERT. The JRCERT certification ensures that the schools is teaching in the most complete and correct way. There are so many schools that claim to teach you to be a Radiologic Technologist in just a few weeks, compared to the two-year programs accredited by the JRCERT. The schools that are certified by the JRCERT indeed do teach students in the proper format, following the guidelines of the ASRT and ARRT.

Secondly, investigate the schools you choose. Look at the ARRT pass rate for the school you are considering. Take a look at the attrition rate at these schools as well. Many schools will start a large class and then half of the class drops out before completion. Find a school that is dedicated to the students and their graduation.

How would you advise an individual entering the radiology professions to proceed? What are the challenges, or obstacles that may be faced?

I was trained in a hospital based radiologic technology program and I have a real bias for these kinds of programs. I feel that they offer more clinical experience which really reinforces the classroom coursework. This added clinical experience gives the student the chance to develop their critical thinking skills on real world patients. In the classroom you can simulate many scenarios but having to actually practice those solutions on real patients is the best teacher.

However, one challenge in the hospital based program is the lack of a baccalaureate degree. This is changing as the ARRT is requiring affiliations with colleges to at least offer an associate’s degree. The students in hospital based programs put on many hours of clinical that don’t always translate to the appropriate credit hours.

One of the big obstacles in radiologic technology right now is the lack of job opportunities. Even with the projections of the increased demands from the baby boomer generation, this is still a shortage of positions. The student entering that job market must be prepared to start at whatever level they can. They may have to work the least desirable shifts in order to get their foot in the door.

Can you give us an example of an interesting case or project that you have worked on and your role in helping to achieve a positive outcome?

I was fortunate to be involved in the production of a white paper for the ASRT regarding the proper use of digital radiography. I worked with technologists from across the nation. These were technologists in clinical as well as teaching roles. It was so enlightening to see that problems I was facing in Western Nebraska were the same problems technologists were facing in North Carolina or Ohio. It was a great opportunity to increase my knowledge and also provide a white paper that would help other technologists. I would not have had this opportunity if I had not been involved at the national level with the ASRT.

What is the best career advice you have ever received? Name 1 or 2 guidelines you would offer the radiology professional just entering the field?

There was one piece of advice that I was offered by a Radiologic Technologist that had been a tech for many years. He was the portable/surgery technologist in our department. This was during my very early years as a technologist. He always told me “you have to specialize, that is where the jobs and best pay are.” After trying out CT Scanning, Nuc Med and Interventional, I decided to go back to my roots and stay in the Diagnostic Area of our department. So I did not take his advice and I have never regretted it. I am in a part of the department that never gets boring because of all of the diversity. I get to interact with a wide variety of departments in the hospital. I also get to interact with a wide variety of patients (many different ages). I am glad that I did not take that one piece of advice from that technologist even though I took his advice in many other areas.

As an experienced professional in the radiology profession what role do you feel advanced technology is playing and what other advances do you foresee?

Technology has advanced so much in the last 10 years. With digital radiography and PACS systems we are able to transmit information in exciting new ways. The challenge with the new technology is to keep current with all of the advancements. Learning how to operate and also how to navigate in this new age is very important. We have to remember that we control the technology; the technology does not control us. Digital Radiography is a prime example of the importance of controlling the technology. Digital Radiography allows us to acquire images with wide latitude of exposures, sometimes overexposing the patient. We need to be vigilant in the selection of our techniques to maintain ALARA while at the same time producing quality images. One advancement that I hope will come is in keeping track of patients’ radiation doses. With patient receiving radiation in a variety of different exams and different locations it will be important to track the amount of cumulative radiation that they receive.

What is the key strength you bring to your career and how would you advise radiology professionals to mine their own strengths to further their careers.

Two strengths, that I hope are a part of my career, are being committed to lifelong learning and being involved with my profession. I hear so many students say, “I can’t wait to get out of school so I can stop studying.” Unfortunately, even when you get out of school the learning is still a big part of this profession. Like I mentioned in a previous question, the advances in technology require us to keep up to date and that requires additional learning. As technologists we are also required to get continuing education. I can’t imagine being a technologist today without staying informed about new ideas and reviewing the standards we learned in school.

Being involved with your profession is also very important. I am involved at both the State level and the National level in my profession. I find it is both vital and fun to be in touch with technologists from across the state and the across the nation. By networking with those individuals you increase your knowledge and you gain a greater appreciation for the role that Radiologic Technologists play in the medical field. You can also help to direct the path of the profession by being involved with legislative issues that impact your career.

We thank Randy Prouty for generously sharing his insights and advice for prospective radiologic technologists. You can learn more about Randy at the Nebraska Society of Radiologic Technologists website.