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Radiography students gain confidence through hands-on practice

Jan 11, 2022
Three people work with a medical imaging machine
Three people work with a medical imaging machine

KOKOMO, Ind. – The first time many future medical imaging professionals use a C-arm fluoroscopy machine, they are in the high-pressure situation of an operating room with a real patient.

Indiana University Kokomo’s second-year radiography students participated in a unique opportunity, practicing hands-on with the technology, at the Indiana Spine Group’s Medical Academic Center.

Heidi Sebastian, clinical assistant professor of radiologic sciences and program director, said to her knowledge, IU Kokomo’s radiography program is the first in Indiana to offer this kind of opportunity to its students. She noted that a C-arm, an imaging scanner intensifier used during surgical procedures which converts x-rays into video images, is prohibitively expensive for a university to purchase for lab use, so students only get to use them in clinical sites.

“Our assessment data shows that our students need more confidence with this type of medical imaging, and it’s one that cannot be practiced outside the operating room,” she said. “This type of experience should help with those concerns.”

Student Jocelyn Andrews appreciated the chance to practice with the machine without having a live patient on the table.

“The only time we get to work with a C-arm in clinicals is when we are placed in surgery,” she said. “We don’t get time to get oriented with the equipment or feel comfortable with specific positions or procedures. This gave us the opportunity to work and create a sterile field and ask the questions we might not get the chance to ask in the fast-paced environment of an operating room.”

With two hours to practice and ask questions, they could take their time.

“When we’re in our clinicals using the C-arm, it’ s a high-stress situation,” said student Christine Biang. “It’s not the best place to ask questions or practice or get to know the machine.”

The unique experience happened at the invitation of Bryan Robertson, a graduate of IU Kokomo’s Associate of Science in Radiography and Bachelor of Science in Medical Imaging Technology programs, who is the computed tomography coordinator at the center.

“He really wants to help our graduates have more confidence when they graduate,” Sebastian said. “In surgery, the patient is covered up, and you have to go where they tell you and hope you get it right the first time. With this experience we were able to practice imaging without the pressure of being in an active surgery.”

Sebastian sent student’s questions to Robertson in advance, so he was prepared to answer them, making it very much a personalized experience. An IU Kokomo Applied Learning grant funded the project.

Going forward, first-year radiography students will visit the center before their surgery clinical rotations, so they can practice on a C-arm prior to their first placement. Sebastian added that  Sandra Haugo, the center’s director, has offered to work with second-year students so they can earn certification on a 0-arm, a portable imaging device that combines aspects of X-ray and CT scans.

“That’s an up-and-coming technology a lot of doctors are going to start using,” she said, adding that it provides more accuracy in positioning. “This will be a valuable certification for our graduates to have.”

Andrews said the connections maintained with alumni are what makes IU Kokomo’s program unique.

“One of our graduates was able to put this together for us,” she said. “Many of the people we work with in our clinicals went through our program, so they know the expectations we have to meet. They know what we are learning, who is teaching us, and have a better understanding of what we need to succeed.”

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.

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