California college creates career pathway to train needed imaging techs

580 200 Nadine Ono

(Photo Credit: USAF/Brian Ybarbo)

You’ve probably heard of CT scans and MRIs. Demand for these advanced imaging services is on the rise, as is the demand for trained technologists. Folsom Lake College is partnering with local industry leaders to address this workforce gap with a new Imaging (IMAGE) degree and certificate program.

Advanced imaging includes CT (computed tomography) scans, MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) and IR (vascular-interventional radiography). These technologies are important to early detection of many diseases. According to the California Health Care Foundation’s Almanac, the number of technologists for these procedures has quickly risen in the past few years. But, before now, there have been few formal career pathways for these jobs.

“Our industry has completely transformed into more of the advanced modality practice, but our education career path hasn’t quite made that adjustment for the incumbent workforce,” said Marty Khatib, regional lead and director of Imaging Services at Dignity Health’s Sacramento Hospitals and Mercy San Juan Medical Center. He is also working with Folsom Lake College on creating the imaging program.

Khatib explained that many are trained as x-ray technologists and must find a way to cross-train on the advanced technology. “That’s a very frustrating barrier for not only radiology technologists who graduated from rad-tech programs who are trying to advance their career to where they’re needed, but also for the industry health systems.”

Folsom Lake College’s Dean of Career and Technical Education Victoria Maryatt agreed: “It was a need expressed by the Health Workforce Initiative advisory board across the state to address the need for better educated and trained computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging and interventional radiography employees.”

This led the Los Rios Community College District to partner with the industry health system to create a pathway for current radiology technologists, or incumbent workforce, to train on these advanced modalities.

Sixteen radiology technologists from three health systems, Sutter Health, UC Davis Medical Center, and Dignity Health, are currently participating in the college’s imaging program’s pilot, the first of its kind in the state. “That was a very targeted group of incumbent workforce technologists,” explained Khatib. “You want to develop not just a great curriculum, but also go through a process of assessing how that curriculum flows when there’s lots of good data that’s come out of it.”

Added Maryatt, “It’s exciting work with some exciting innovative concepts that Marty’s bringing to the table that we’re trying to make work here addressing some of the barriers that occur with some of these programs.”

One of the challenges in creating this program, besides the lack of a pathway, is that the cost of cross-training one technologist is close to $100,000. It takes from one year to 18 months to become proficient in the technology, which is complex and expensive to run. Folsom Lake College now has simulation lab where students can learn in a live environment.

The Imaging program at Folsom Lake College is funded through the Industry Driven Regional Collaborative from the California Community College State Chancellor’s Office. The focus of the funding is to resolve labor gaps in specific industries.

When students graduate the imaging program, they will be able to advance their careers and their pay scale. MRI technologists can make nearly $90,000, which is about $15,000 more than radiologic technologists. Additionally, technologists will be needed around the clock and can find work across the state and even the nation.

The imaging program at Folsom Lake College is creating new pathways to fill workforce gaps and elevate the careers of California’s workers. Workforce development programs like these will be highlighted at the 2017 California Economic Summit, which will be held in San Diego on November 2-3.


Nadine Ono

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