By Russell L. Cain, CRA
November 2013—What is it like to transition from a military position in imaging services to the healthcare/imaging world in the civilian sector? How does AHRA involve military imaging leaders in our professional endeavors? The experience of several members who have made the transition to the civilian sector led to a discussion of what can we do to help those making the transition from military to civilian imaging leader.
The AHRA board of directors began to look at the organization’s support of the military services and the potential for developing a connection with military imaging leaders who share the goals and objectives of the AHRA. The primary question we had in mind was how to reach out to these folks and get them involved in their professional association, both during their military service and as they transition to the civilian healthcare sector. The answer led us to follow the example of some other organizations, and develop a special military membership option within AHRA.
As we began to establish contact with imaging leaders in various military organizations it became apparent that a mentoring or coaching program for those leaving the service was much needed. Whether one has been in military service for 2 years or 32, there are some major factors that can make or break a successful transition. Obvious differences include reimbursement issues, a different focus on “revenue for transfer” or shareholder equity, and challenges of overtime (after all, everyone in the military is salaried). Other challenges are not so obvious. Spouses and children must also make the transition to a different community culture where there is less camaraderie and a very different social network.
My personal experience speaks to these issues. I enlisted in the USN at 17 and served a total of 23 years active duty: 11 as a hospital corpsman with training in several areas, including radiologic technology, and the final 12 as a naval officer in the Medical Service Corps (MSC), specializing in operations, and classified eventually as a hospital administrator with advanced degrees.
I retired with multiple undergraduate and graduate degrees, and lots of questions about job fit. Fortunately, I found a mentor who had a relative who was a retired MSC officer, and she guided me through a transition into consulting in healthcare operations, and then into a C-suite job. I left that and returned to consulting, specializing in healthcare risk management. At some point, I decided to return to my early passion for imaging, and went through short stints as a technologist, learning CT and MR, which hadn’t existed during my first experience in radiology, and on to radiology administration.
In 2000, I discovered AHRA and found many new role models and mentors who could teach me the things I needed to know to be effective: reimbursement, coding, and the nuance of dealing with radiology groups whom I don’t “command.” I was extremely lucky to find folks along the way to guide and teach me. My transition from a career in military operations and healthcare support of those operations would have been even rougher for both me and for my lovely spouse had I not been fortunate in some relationships made just prior to leaving the Navy.
The challenges I faced are similar to those faced by today’s service personnel leaving the military to seek a civilian career in imaging administration. A mentoring program for assisting those in our field can make a major difference in the lives of those leaving the military through simply having someone to bounce ideas off, and having a “safe” source of information, especially if there is comfort in knowing the resource person has also been there.
A network of volunteer AHRA mentors has been established, and there are success stories of those leaving the military service and joining the civilian sector in an appropriate position. As people have been making this transition we have gained additional insight into other assistance that mentors can provide. For example, what is an appropriate salary range for a position that is being considered, and what variables should one weigh when making the decision to accept or refuse an offer?
Sometimes the obvious answer isn’t so obvious. AHRA can provide a service to the military membership, grow our military member involvement, and meet the needs of AHRA, our members, and the military services by aiding in the much needed effort of assisting soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines in their return to civilian life. While still at an early stage of development, the program continues to grow in effectiveness and in numbers. We have one more success to celebrate: we, the AHRA, are providing an invaluable service to those who have served, and who are serving our country.
Russell L. Cain, CRA is the director of imaging services at Atlanta Medical Center in Atlanta, GA. He can be reached at email@example.com.