From the Frontlines: Leading the COVID-19 Pandemic as a CRA Leader

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By Alpana Patel Camilli, CRA

In late January 2020, the UCSF Radiology Department began the Novel Coronavirus 2019 outbreak preparedness planning in conjunction with other departmental leaders. Our institution provided leaders with information and resources to commence early education for frontline and ancillary staff.

From preparing for the outbreak to now experiencing a flattening curve, I reflect on the knowledge and experience I’ve gained in the past few months and instantly recognize the advantage of studying for and obtaining the CRA.

After many years of managing an outpatient imaging center, in January of 2019 I returned to the hospital system, managing the Diagnostic Radiology department. During the fall of 2019, I was deep into studying the AHRA Professional Development in Radiology Textbook Series. At that time I found the textbooks essential resources since many policies and protocols had evolved since I worked in a medical center. The last time I’d been in a hospital, I was a working technologist supervisor. The textbook series supported my transition and I relied on them heavily as a source of support.

A year into my role, the Radiology department and I were faced with the monumental task of creating a solid foundation to battle this common enemy and I reached for the books again.

The Human Resources Management book provided guidance on workforce planning, recruitment, building and retaining morale. I needed to decide if I should add to the current staff for the future in the case members of my team become sick or need to say home for childcare. We were tasked to recruit knowledgeable, patient and team-centric technologists. My role was to create an environment where my team would be motivated to perform well. This meant building a foundation of information and education on the virus and its implications in our setting.

The Communications and Information Management book provided the foundation for strategic planning during this crisis. I reviewed the section on assessing internal and external environments as we progressed into facing potential Personal Protection Equipment shortages.  The book reminded me how to handle face to face and written communications, as my staff became fearful of the future. I was also reminded to be succinct in my communications leaving no room for mixed messages as we dealt with proper PPE usage during the various exams throughout the department.

The Operations Management book provided guidance when we began writing our Standard of Practices (SOP) for portable chest x-rays imaging in the isolation rooms and CT/ US imaging of patients under investigations (PUI). I reviewed the continuous quality improvement section several times to aid me in the process.

The Asset Management book aided me when the decision to open several Respiratory Screening Clinics and Accelerated Care Units required portable x-ray, CT and US equipment. In the book, I benefited from the third party distributor section reminding me of the various channels of purchasing through variety of vendors to obtain the equipment to best suit our current need and budget.

Finally, the Financial Management book provided a deeper understanding of the newly developed COVID-19 budget and related costs within individual modalities and to the department as a whole. I revisited several chapters as we had to rethink our collections since many patients were laid off or furloughed, when and how to talk to insurance companies about COVID-19 related coverage.

The CRA textbooks have been my best friends during every step of the pandemic phase and continue to keep my team and I successful in our everyday operations. These resources are my guiding tools and can be guiding tools for anyone out there in the same shoes. I am thankful to have the AHRA as a place for collaboration, sharing and mainly support from peers and colleagues during the peaks and valleys of all we experience in healthcare.

Alpana Patel Camilli, CRA is Manager of Diagnostic Radiology UCSF Health at the University of California San Francisco, CA. She can be reached at

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