When it's done well, medical imaging can help doctors diagnose and treat their patients with a remarkable degree of confidence. When it's not done well, the results can be inconclusive or even misleading. That leads to poorer patient outcomes, and sometimes costly lawsuits for the doctor or hospital. Quality assurance managers keep standards high in the radiography department and throughout the radiology lab. Becoming a QA manager in radiography requires experience and two levels of certification.
Radiography is the branch of medical imaging that uses X-rays. In addition to standard general-purpose X-rays, radiographers can qualify to perform mammograms, bone density analysis, CT scanning and other specialized types of imaging. Most radiographers enter the field with a two-year associate degree or equivalent training from the U.S. military or a training hospital. After completing their training, candidates must pass certification exams administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. ARRT certification isn't mandatory in most jurisdictions, but it opens the door to QA certification.
Quality managers oversee other radiographers' work, continually looking for ways to improve procedures and reduce the risk of errors. You need to have a good understanding of the equipment in your department, including calibration and troubleshooting procedures. You should be able to determine the quality of a technologist's work by viewing the finished images, and offer constructive advice to improve results. You're also expected to review your lab's procedures, both to determine how problems and inaccuracies occurred and to prevent them proactively. You're also responsible for training, drills, demonstrations and other activities that can help produce improved outcomes.
To be eligible for the ARRT's certification in quality assurance, first you have to be certified in radiography, radiation therapy or nuclear medicine technology. You also have to meet clinical experience requirements, spelled out in the candidate's handbook. That includes activities such as performing tests on the hardware, measuring radiation exposure during testing, leading staff development workshops and analyzing patient outcomes. Once you've met and documented those requirements, you're eligible to take the ARRT's certification exam. It consists of 165 questions, divided between equipment quality control, quality improvement management and laws and regulations.
Maintenance of Certfication
Getting certified as a quality assurance manager isn't the end of the process. Your certification must be renewed every two years, and to keep your credentials you'll have to meet the ARRT's requirements for ongoing continuing education. You'll need to earn 24 continuing education credits during each two year term. If you can't meet that requirement for whatever reason, you'll be placed on probation for up to six months while you make up the remaining credits.
Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.