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59th MDW radiology tech rotation enhances medical training, readiness

Senior Airman Devonte West, 59th Radiology Squadron technologist, positions a patient’s arm during a procedure July 23, 2015, at the San Antonio Military Medical Center, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The 59th RSQ implemented a work rotation with the 959th Medical Group to help technologists build and practice skills associated with inpatient clinical services. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jerilyn Quintanilla)

Senior Airman Devonte West, 59th Radiology Squadron technologist, positions a patient’s arm during a procedure July 23, 2015, at the San Antonio Military Medical Center, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The 59th RSQ implemented a work rotation with the 959th Medical Group to help technologists build and practice skills associated with inpatient clinical services. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jerilyn Quintanilla)

Senior Airman Jeremy Guancia, 59th Radiology Squadron technologist, adjusts the position of an X-ray machine in preparation for his next patient July 23, 2015, at the San Antonio Military Medical Center, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Guancia was at SAMMC for a two-month work rotation implemented to help Wilford Hall radiology technologists build and practice skills associated with inpatient clinical services. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jerilyn Quintanilla)

Senior Airman Jeremy Guancia, 59th Radiology Squadron technologist, adjusts the position of an X-ray machine in preparation for his next patient July 23, 2015, at the San Antonio Military Medical Center, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Guancia was at SAMMC for a two-month work rotation implemented to help Wilford Hall radiology technologists build and practice skills associated with inpatient clinical services. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jerilyn Quintanilla)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- When the Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center became an outpatient clinic in 2011, most training opportunities tied to inpatient services were lost. In April, the 59th Radiology Squadron found a way for active-duty radiology technologists to again hone those important inpatient skills.

The squadron agreed to send technologists to share the load with counterparts from the 959th Medical Operations Squadron who work in the San Antonio Military Medical Center, the inpatient treatment facility at nearby Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston.

"Many in-patient services were moved to SAMMC, and we needed to find a way to make sure the skills associated with those services were not lost," said Staff Sgt. Andrew Eason, 59th RSQ Diagnostic Imaging NCO in charge.

"Our solution was to implement a rotation with the (959th MDOS), where our Airmen could learn these skills and get the experience."

The 59th RSQ's training program was centered on the outpatient services provided here, but "adding the experience associated with a wide range of inpatient services at SAMMC gives the techs a full picture of the radiology mission," Eason explained.

Four technologists from the 59th RSQ are sent to work with the 959th MDOS General Surgery Flight for two months at a time. While on rotation, technologists receive training and gain experience in surgical and operating room cases, portable X-ray procedures, and continuous X-ray as well as a wider range of fluoroscopy exams.

"The schedules are created based on feedback from the Airmen and their training managers, primarily to ensure we meet readiness skill verification training requirements," said Master Sgt. Miriam Montalvo, 959th MDOS Radiology Superintendent.

"We figure out what areas are most beneficial for their growth, and try to mix it up so they get to see different areas of the radiology mission," Montalvo added.

With the general surgery flight conducting about 100 exams each day, including up to 10 surgical cases, 59th RSQ technologists like Senior Airman Jeremy Guancia have already gained valuable experience.

"I enjoy seeing and working in other areas of radiology. Prior to this rotation, I had very little experience with trauma cases.  I've already observed and worked in almost 70 trauma cases, so far," Guancia said.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of the rotation is the opportunity for the Airmen to build and hone skills necessary for deployment.

And there are similarities between working in an emergency room and in a deployed environment, said Senior Airman Devonte West. "It's fast-paced. Doctors and nurses are each trying to examine a different part of the patient and we're in the middle of it.

"It can be a little nerve-wracking if you're not used to it but it definitely teaches how to adapt and react quickly," said West, who returned from a deployment to Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, earlier this year.

To assist the technologists in their new, and in some cases, high-stress work environments, they have the full support of other enlisted and civilian techs as well as NCOs.

"I've learned a lot from the (radiology technologists), especially in the ER," said West. "They usually have the answers to my questions. They guide us. They show us some of the (ways) they make things run more smoothly, and help us make things easier for the patient. They're great mentors."

"We've received a lot of positive feedback from the techs coming off the rotation. To hear them say they're more comfortable or more confident as a technologist, it shows the rotation is effective in preparing them for deployment, Eason added.

 
  
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