Radiology School Changes


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Wilkes Journal-Patriot Staff

Officials of Wilkes Regional Medical Center are continuing work on transferring the operation of the hospital’s School of Radiologic Technology to Wilkes Community College. They hope to have the transfer of the program completed by this fall.

Invitations to the school’s graduation ceremony, which will be held at the North Wilkesboro Presbyterian Church annex fellowship hall, on Friday, June 21, states that this will be the “55th, last and final graduation ceremony” for the school.

The program was started by Dr. John Bennett in 1956. The director of the program on a full-time basis for 35 years (until 2007) was Betty Winslow, who then worked on a part-time basis for several additional years.

Mark Cullison, the vice president of support services for the hospital, said that the change is needed because of new requirements by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT), which certifies radiologic technologists.

“That governing body has adopted changes to its rules saying that anyone sitting for the test to be accredited as a radiologic technologist must have a college degree of some sort, from an associates degree to a masters degree. Since we are a hospital and not accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges, we cannot issue a degree that would be recognized by the JRCERT and allow graduates from our program to sit for the test. That new rule would severely limit our student pool so we felt that it would be better if the college took it over.”

Cullison said that the hospital had required students in the program to take basic college courses.

Classes in the program usually average 12-15 students.

Lengthy discussions

According to Cullison, “We’ve been discussing this move since early this past fall. We’ve had to jump through a lot of hoops, and we still aren’t done. This has been a big effort on our part to make this happen, but we felt that it would be better to transfer the operation of the school to the college than to shut it down.

“There’s no guarantee that we can complete the transfer by this fall, but that’s what we’re aiming for.”

The classes for the radiology program are presently in the WRMC support center, which is the former Winn-Dixie on West D Street. They will still be offered there, by the college, until the college has a new home for its medical technology training. All of the clinical work will continue to be done at the hospital here, as well as at Watauga Hospital, Ashe Memorial Hospital and Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital, as well as the WRMC Diagnostic Imaging Center at West Park.

“These other hospitals have signed on and agreed to serve as clinical sites for our students,” Cullison said. “We want the students to have exposure at multiple radiologic sites.”

The hospital, for many years, offered free housing for students in the program but that is no longer a part of the program. Also the previously tuition-free program now has a fee schedule in place that is similar to that of the community college system.”

Cullison noted that, in previous years, the hospital allowed second-year students (in the two-year program) to be employed by the hospital but no longer offer that.

“The students  now take clinical training on all shifts as part of their accreditation process,” Cullison said. “They have to be with a radiologic technician whenever they are exposed to clinical teaching or training.”

While radiologic training was offered as training  primarily at hospitals in the past, Colluson said that colleges are now the main providers of the training.

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