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Radiologist Assistant Career Path Expands Rad Tech Role

Radiologist Assistant Career Path Expands Rad Tech Role

Cindy Mehallow / Monster Contributing Writer

For experienced radiologic technologists (RTs) who crave upward mobility and an advanced clinical role, there’s a new career path to explore: That of the radiologist assistant (RA). Recently created by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), the American College of Radiology and the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT), this new role was designed to help address the shortage of radiologists and to provide a way for professionals to advance their rad tech careers. As physician extenders, RAs will have more autonomy and more say in decision making, which means more opportunities, more responsibilities and greater financial rewards.

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Like radiographers, RAs will assess, educate and manage patients. But RAs will also perform certain radiological procedures, such as fluoroscopy, and they’ll be able to evaluate image quality and report their initial image observations to the supervising radiologist.

Those higher-level duties appeal to computed tomographer Lucina Mallavarapu, who enrolled in the RA program at California’s Loma Linda University, the first school in the country to launch such a program. “I’m a hands-on person,” she says. “I love doing procedures and the initial observation of films.” Mallavarapu graduated from Loma Linda in summer 2005 with nine others in the first class of RAs.

While Loma Linda was first to develop an RA program and admitted its first class in fall 2003, other schools have rapidly followed suit. Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas, the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark, New Jersey, and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond, Virginia, all admitted students in 2004. Programs at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are accepting applications.

Program Variety

While all RA training will prepare students for the same certification, the programs differ. “Each program sponsor is going to construct or organize their program according to what kind of [student] population they’re trying to attract,” says Kevin Powers, the ASRT’s director of education.

For example, VCU offers a three-year traditional education program on its Richmond campus. The first two years feature clinical and didactic coursework followed by a paid, one-year RA fellowship at VCU Health Systems. ARRT-certified radiographers who enter with an associate’s degree will graduate with a bachelor’s degree and certificate; those entering with a bachelor’s degree will earn a certificate.

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