Students in Stanly Community College’s radiography program, one of many options in the school’s health sciences curriculum, should be prepared for extensive classroom, laboratory, and clinical training while pursuing a of a diploma.
“You have to be dedicated,” said Tameka Purdie, a second-semester student in the program, when asked her thoughts on her chosen field of study.
“Time management is very important,” added Jenny Hua, another student.
“Radiography is the study of using radiation to produce images of the human body,” program director Tiffany Barbee said when asked to compare radiography to radiology. “The terms are often used interchangeably.”
Barbee, who has worked with the program at CSC for the past 11 years, had previously been a mammography technologist at Charlotte Radiology.
Accepting the position at CSC was a bit of a homecoming, however.
“I myself graduated from this program,” she said, adding that the program was already “well established” even when she was a student.
During her tenure as director, the program achieved a number of milestones, Barbee said.
“The program is now accredited by JRCERT, the Joint Review Board on Education in Radiologic Technology,” she said. “Accreditation certifies that our program meets the teaching standards for such programs.”
Another noteworthy achievement is the updating of the program’s laboratory facilities at the SCC Crutchfield campus in Locust.
“We now have live equipment,” Barbee said, “so we are able to produce real X-rays, which makes our training much more efficient.”
With live X-ray production, the dangers of radiation exposure must be mitigated for students and instructors, and Barbee noted that all necessary precautions are followed.
“The lab walls are covered in lead inside the plasterboard,” she said. “In addition, our students and instructors are required to wear shields, also made of lead, during procedures, and as a final protection, each student and instructor is required to wear a special badge that measures and displays the amount of radiation exposure which they have received.”
The program attracts students from a wide geographic area, according to Barbee.
“With our location as it is, we attract students not only from Stanly, but also from almost all of our border counties,” she said.
Barbee added that jobs are “immediately available” for program graduates.
“Many of our graduates go directly to careers in hospitals, doctors’ offices and laboratories, and some go on to specialized fields, such as CT or MRI,” she said. “Other students transfer to colleges and universities and pursue four-year studies in management.”
Additionally, many graduates take the certification exam offered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.
Students in the radiography program cite a variety of reasons why they chose to pursue a career in the field.
Ryan Hummer, a sophomore, has lifelong ties to radiography.
“My family is involved in the medical field and my brother is also a radiographer,” he said.
Maurin Wilhite, another second-semester student, became interested in the field as a fan of the TV show “Bones.”
“It looked like they were still using x-rays,” she noted.
Acceptance into the program is “very competitive,” Barbee said.
“Last year we had between 80 and 90 applications,” she said, “and we accept 20 students into the program each year.”
According to Barbee, admission to the program is based on high school grades, with a particular emphasis on biology, chemistry and math.
An additional factor in determining acceptance into the program is performance on a required test, the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS), which assesses a student’s readiness for college health science programs.
“Some students will work one to two years to prepare for admission to the program,” Barbee said, which typically involves general education classes and test preparation.
“It’s a heavy workload for students taking both general education and radiography courses,” she added, while noting that some school systems allow students to take some of the compulsory general education while still in secondary school.
The five-semester program includes laboratory practices and clinical rotations in addition to lectures.
“Students are in class and in the lab three to four days a week,” Barbee said. “Additionally, they are scheduled for clinical work under the supervision of an RT (radiology technician), in which they work with patients to perform actual x-rays.”
The clinical element of the program is made possible through partnerships with hospitals, urgent care facilities and physicians in Stanly, Anson, Cabarrus, Mecklenburg, Montgomery and Union counties, Barbee said.
The program and its graduates have a bright future, Barbee says.
“There will always be a demand for workers in this field,” she said.
Toby Thorpe is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News & Press.