February 2013—I was the president of AHRA from 2008-2009 and the 2010 Gold Award recipient. While continuing my volunteer work for AHRA, I was honored to be asked to serve on the Board of Directors for the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT). The JCRERT is the only organization that provides programmatic accreditation for educational programs in radiography, radiation therapy, MR, and medical dosimetry. In my first year of service as a director on this board, I have learned some very important things that I would have liked to have known many years ago to enhance my knowledge and ability as a leader in medical imaging. Let me share some of what I’ve learned with you.
The JRCERT accredits programs in radiologic technology. Accreditation is a process that assures that an institution or program provides a quality education. I believe that all radiology administrators realize the value of accreditation. We experience it with The Joint Commission and with equipment accreditation. I always felt that if I hired a technologist with ARRT certification who had graduated from an accredited program, the quality of that person’s skills was a given. This is somewhat true, but not entirely. Accreditation of educational programs for our staff is important because it validates that the higher education institutions where our technologists are trained meet certain standards. It says that the leaders of those higher education institutions value the concept of accreditation enough to participate in a voluntary, external peer review. In my mind, accreditation equals quality. Here is what I didn’t know or had never really pondered before.
There are two types of accreditation: institutional and programmatic. Institutional accreditation focuses on the overall quality of the school, college, or institution. This accreditation process evaluates areas of governance and administration, financial stability, admissions and student services, institutional resources, effectiveness, and relationships with various constituencies. Programmatic accreditation evaluates specific programs, looking at all elements of an educational program. Additionally, site visitors are credentialed in their specific field of study (radiography, radiation therapy, etc). For example, a JRCERT evaluation of a radiography program examines the entire curriculum, didactic and clinical, along with all the other elements evaluated in an institutional accreditation. Therefore, a program at an institution of higher learning that only has institutional accreditation, not programmatic accreditation, may not have the same quality measures in the study of radiography. Here is the best example I can offer from a radiology administrator’s perspective. At one of our Joint Commission reviews, the site visitor who was reviewing our radiation safety program was an OB/GYN physician. He was delightful, very intelligent, and had a great deal of knowledge about The Joint Commission’s standards on radiation safety; however, he had no background in radiation safety. The questions a medical health physicist would have asked us during a Joint Commission site visit would have been very different, very probing – institutional versus programmatic accreditation.
Back to my premise that we can be assured of a technologist with quality skills if he or she is from a programmatically accredited program and possesses ARRT certification. Well, perhaps. Something else I have learned this year: the ARRT allows students from both institutionally accredited programs and programmatically accredited programs to sit for the registry. The ARRT does not make a distinction between types of accreditation. All they require for registry eligibility is graduation from an ‘accredited’ program.
When I was AHRA president, writing my column for Link, I would offer a management or leadership tidbit each month, calling that part of my article “Penny’s Pointers.” I would like to reprise that and offer you this “Penny Pointer:”
Any accreditation adds value to an educational program by setting performance criteria and showing that those criteria have been met. Institutional accreditation ensures quality and adds value to the educational process in a broad context. In healthcare, and especially in the radiologic sciences, a programmatically accredited course of study ensures students receive specific instruction focused on the specific field of study: radiography, radiation therapy, MR, or medical dosimetry. Programmatic accreditation elevates the profession and adds value for students, patients, and administrators. Ask if the program that wants to use your clinical setting has programmatic accreditation. Align your department with educational programs that do!
Penny Olivi, RT(R), CRA, FAHRA is the senior administrator, radiology at University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, MD. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.