Within a year of Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen’s discovery of the X-ray on Nov. 8, 1895, using radiographic images for diagnosis and therapy became an established part of the medical profession.
During the week of Nov. 8 each year, the medical community celebrates National Radiologic Technology Week, partly as an homage to Roentgen but also to highlight the important role of medical imaging and radiation therapy professionals in providing patient care.
Tyler Junior College’s Radiologic Technology program began in 1972 when the programs at the two Tyler hospitals (then-East Texas Medical Center and Mother Frances Hospital) combined and moved to the TJC campus.
For 49 years, TJC been training technologists in the art and science of creating images of the human body. They work closely with radiologists and other physicians, and they play a vital role as a member of a patient’s total healthcare team.
Graduates of the TJC Radiologic Technology program are eligible to sit for the American Registry of Radiologic Technologist (ARRT) national examination. TJC’s program boasts a 99.7 percent registry exam success rate since 2002.
TJC’s 24-month program provides a curriculum of classroom and clinical courses, offering students a rich environment to learn the skills for a career in radiologic technology. Clinical courses include 1,800 hours of hands-on experience at one of nine area hospitals.
With a high starting salary and incredible job prospects, radiologic technology is a great profession for people who enjoy helping others while working with the latest medical imaging equipment.
Average starting salary in East Texas is between $45,000 and 50,000, annually. Median annual salary is $63,710, and the job outlook is projected to grow 9 percent through 2030.
Joining the family business
For recent graduate Haley Thomas, the TJC program runs in the family.
Thomas, of Chandler, first became aware of X-ray technology in intermediate school, when her parents both quit their jobs and enrolled in the TJC program.
“We lived off of their savings for a year while they went through it,” she said. “They were studying all the time, at ballgames and practices; and I would flip through their textbooks and look at all the cool X-rays and crazy pictures. There was one instance where my dad was studying for a practicum, and he put me up on the dining room table so he could practice positioning me for his test.”
Watching her parents provided the initial spark of interest that led her down the same career path.
Thomas enrolled in the TJC program in 2019, and she graduated and passed her exam as a registered technologist in August.
She now works full time at the UT Health East Texas main hospital, rotating between doing trauma X-rays in the ER and taking a portable unit to patient rooms throughout the hospital.
It has definitely made for interesting conversations at the family dinner table, she said.
“We talk shop a lot,” she said, “And it’s cool because, when I was younger, they would tell me all of these cool stories about what they saw; and now I’m a tech at a Level I trauma center, so I’m getting to share these stories, too.”
Asked about her TJC experience, Thomas said, “I came into it knowing that it was going to be challenging and that I would have to study a lot. It definitely lived up to that, but it is so rewarding.”
She continued, “They teach you with the expectation that at some point, you’re going to be treating their family members or them, and they want you to be the very best. They expect you to know the information, but they prepare you really well and give you all the tools, so you leave the program feeling really, really prepared.”
For more information, go to TJC.edu/RadTech.