By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
The goal of Autry Technology Center is for its students to leave the classroom as prepared as possible. In one class, it has registered a 100 percent success rate at passing a difficult national certification test.
The radiography program is a post-high school graduation course aimed at an associate degree in applied science. The program teaches students how to use diagnostic images or X-rays from various parts of the body to make a diagnosis. The images must be well done to assist the doctor in making an accurate diagnosis. Radiography is a two-year program, making the student eligible for 52 hours of college credits.
Radiography was one of the programs highlighted Sunday at Autry Technology Center’s open house.
Program Director Sharon Johnson said the program starts after general education classes are completed. After receiving the applied sciences degree, students may attend the University of Oklahoma and receive a Bachelor of Science. They can work in hospitals, free-standing clinics, doctor’s offices or sales and education. They also can go into other fields such as sports medicine, or specialize in children or the elderly.
The courses required for completion of the Radiologic Technologist course include fundamentals of radiological sciences and health care; human structure and function for radiography; pharmacology and drug administration; advanced imaging; radiation production and characteristics; and modality applications, among others. A total of 2,778 class hours are involved.
For a radiology aide certificate, 705 hours are required.
“It’s quite extensive. The students work very hard,” Johnson said. They spend 37 hours per week in class or with patients under supervision of trained professionals. The students work at both Enid hospitals and an orthopedic clinic. Right out of school, students can make $30,000 a year or more.
They take their national board certification test after completion of classes, and Autry Tech students have a 100 percent pass rate. Only one student has had to take the test twice since the first graduating class in 1991.
Clinical coordinator and instructor Danny Gray, master of education, called the program the best in Oklahoma. Many of those students have stayed in the Enid area, serving Enid hospitals and clinics.
“The two Enid hospitals came to us and requested the program. They were also instrumental in starting the program,” Johnson said. “The commitment to the community has been excellent.”
Gray said the average age of radiographers in the state is 45-46, but there are a number who are older and considering retirement. Due to the current economy, those retirement plans have been put on hold, but as it improves, Johnson said they will begin to follow through on retirement plans and more jobs will open. The degree also can allow the students to receive further training, obtain a master’s degree and apply for administrative positions, which pay well.
Johnson said the field is very technical, and teaching it begins in simplicity. The students learn about radiation protection. It is not to be feared, but to be respected. As long as the proper precautions are taken, there should be no problems with it.
“It’s just like having a fireplace in your home. You have to know how to handle it,” she said.
They start with simple X-rays, such as those from the chest. The students learn how to position the patient so they can obtain a proper image, then how to look at an image and determine whether it is a good one. Johnson said the technicians do not interpret the images; that is done by the physicians. Their job is to provide the best image possible to aid the doctor in making a determination.
“There are over 200 diseases that can be diagnosed with a chest X-ray. If you don’t put it on there, it can’t be diagnosed,” she said.
After completing radiography, students can go into CT scanning, MRIs and other types of imaging. There is an MRI program at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, and their equipment is used by students in the Autry Tech program, Johnson said.
“Jobs will always be there. Hospitals are open 24/7, and there will always be hospitals,” she said.
The biggest advance in imaging has been the development of digital imaging, which gives physicians an opportunity to see all sides and close up; even color images of an injured area. Johnson said it is like the original black-and-white televisions of the 1950s and the 3-D and Blu-ray technology of today.
Another Autry Tech program that helps students learn is the diesel automotive area. Michael Jameson has been a diesel technician for more than 40 years and a teacher for the past six. Diesel technician jobs are increasing across the United States and in the Enid area. Within 100 miles of Enid, there are 27 companies in need of diesel technicians, and Jameson said some of those companies may need multiple technicians. Enrollment also is increasing in the diesel classes.
“They choose to come here,” Jameson said. “In the next three years, we expect even more.”
Diesel technology classes also were highlighted at the open house.
Standing in front of a dissected propane powered tractor, Jameson said diesel technology is the same technology that is applied to compressed natural gas and propane engines. The only difference is the method of firing the engine. Gasoline-powered vehicles use spark fire, and diesel uses compression-fired methods. The internal workings are the same, he said.
“If you are a mechanic, you can work on everything. We teach engines here. The students know how to break down a problem, find the problem and fix the problem,” he said. Jameson likes to say graduates from diesel automotive can work on anything from a light plant to the boss’s Mercedes.
Students also learn to work on brakes, which requires knowledge of the different suspension systems of an 18-wheeler. They take brakes apart in the shop to know how those systems work.
“This is the greatest job in the world. I get to build engines, make noise, play with the boys, and get paid,” Jameson said.