Radiologic Technology instructor Ludie Tyran reacted to Gomez’s call with the same enthusiasm she showed each of her 12 recent graduates. “I’m so proud. I had tears in my eyes. I felt their happiness and joy.”
Coastal Bend College’s inaugural class of rad techs graduated together in May and recently individually completed the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists Exam with a pass rate of 100 percent. The average national score in 2008 was 84.6 percent success rate, according to Tim Skaife who heads radiology at the college. CBC rad tech students well exceeded the national average.
“These students stepped up and did this on their own,” Tyran explained. The program is not easy and only students who fully commit and get the support of their families are successful. Tyran said students face the burden of finances and time required to complete the rad tech curriculum. They have to balance busy home lives and a flailing economy to make it to class, to clinicals and to study groups but they do it.
Gomez, a wife and mother of two, was already completing a degree in professional business technology when she heard about the new rad tech program. “I really, really needed a job but I waited because I knew this would open the door to a good job,” she said. It took a few years for program launch in Beeville but Gomez got into the first group.
“It’s like taking pictures but different,” she said. “I thought to myself ‘I could do this.’” Not that it was easy. Gomez relied on her husband and parents to help with her kids, T.J and Tlyssa. She also struggled with travel which is a requirement for program participants.
Students are assigned to clinical sites across South Texas. Each site runs under a different set of procedures and uses different equipment so students get well-rounded exposure to the profession. “First you learn the basics of film. Then you move on to high-tech equipment. Some sites see a high volume of patients while others are less hectic,” Gomez explained.
Each experience leads to an improvement of skills and a better understanding of the field. Tyran said most students enter the program with little knowledge beyond basic anatomy. They start on fingers and toes and work their way up to complicated procedures. “Only practice and going through the motions makes them competent,” she said.
Students spend time in the classroom and the onsite lab where they work with a whole body phantom. “Lenny” comes with donor bones and simulated organs. She is a 5’2,” 110-pound female about 30 years of age. She is the first patient students work with.
Once they go out to work with living patients, they operate under the instruction of licensed radiologic technologists who are also offsite clinical instructors for Coastal Bend College. Students watch and participate in X-ray lab operations while being drilled on anatomy. They complete a number of procedures with supervision to increase their level of competency and confidence.
Gomez said, in addition to learning how to be a rad tech, she was taught to be a confident test taker. “I learned to master questions. I learned to sit in a chair for three hours. I learned what to expect,” she explained. “When I went for the licensing exam, it was exactly as Mr. Skaife said it would be and I felt prepared.”
Coastal Bend College offers radiologic technology in Beeville and Alice. Other health-related vocational programs offered at CBC include medical coding, dental hygiene (Beeville only) and nursing. The pharmacy technician program will be offered in the future