Radiology Technologists Give Their All

There’s a philosophy among those who perform X-rays and computed tomography (CT) scans at Southeast Georgia Health System. “Patients are often fearful or anxious during an imaging scan, or they’re in pain from an accident or injury, so my folks make every effort to make the experience and process as easy as possible,” says Scott Wilson, MSA, CRA, director of the Health System’s Imaging Services Department.

Wilson explains that most patients who visit the Health System’s Emergency Care Centers need imaging services. “This is especially true for COVID-19 patients. Our techs really get to know these patients since most of them get a significant number of chest X-rays and/or CT scans while hospitalized.”

CT Technologist Cameron Piper, RT(R)(CT)ARRT concurs, “We touch every COVID-19 patient in this hospital, many on multiple occasions. When the pandemic kicked in the front door, we asked, ‘How can we help?’ instead of running the other direction. Some of us spent hours performing exams on COVID-19 patients during the surges.”

Much of Piper’s time is spent in the Brunswick Campus Emergency Care Center working with seriously ill patients. “CT is the gold standard for diagnosing a variety of pathologies and conditions. Think of it as 3D X-rays that give far more detail into the patient’s internal anatomy.”

Throughout the pandemic, the technologists worked with radiologists to find ways to customize the exams to increase accuracy and comfort for patients with COVID-19. They also worked closely as a team, helping each other out, especially during the surge. Treating patients with COVID-19 took extra time due to gowning and cleaning equipment thoroughly between patients.

There’s a lot on the line when your job helps doctors confirm or deny a suspected diagnosis. Producing high quality images accurately and efficiently, sometimes as often as every 10-15 minutes, is no easy feat. Piper says, “Throughout the process, we comfort patients, ease their anxieties and help them understand their exams.

The payoff comes when an image reveals answers that might help a patient get better. “You realize your profession makes a difference the moment a patient receives a diagnosis and recovers after being treated,” says Benita Chance, RT(R)ARRT, radiologic technologist.

Sacrificing for the Greater Good
Like Piper, Chance says COVID-19 is a formidable foe. She relies on her faith to conquer challenges. “When the work day begins, there are precious lives to care for and you have to give them your all. Before the start of every work day, I pray for healing, strength and restoration. At the end of every work day, I sit in my car for at least 30 minutes to compose myself before driving home. Some days are spent in silence from total exhaustion, some days crying for lives lost and families affected, and some days rejoicing for the ones who made it.”

The Health System’s team members have needed every ounce of strength to cope over the last 19 months of the COVID-19 health crisis. Staffing shortages required working long hours, often for multiple days in a row. As days turned into weeks, they spent less and less time with their own families to provide support to COVID-19 patients who could not have visitors. “We offer whatever help they need. We give words of encouragement and listen as they share details about their lives and families. I’ve held their hands as an act of kindness because no one else could be there due to COVID-19 visitation policies. We pull together to care for our community,” Chance says.

For Piper, the hardest part of the pandemic has been its longevity. “It seems to be cyclical. Each time the tide comes in, we are a little more prepared, but still trying to recover strength to muster up the fight.”

Stronger Together
Despite exhaustion and staffing challenges, the team soldiers on. “Through catastrophic circumstances, I can count on my co-workers to make sure we’re safe, to encourage each other and to work together to serve our community. We have strength individually but are stronger together,” Chance says.

Wilson agrees. “The imaging techs work as a team to help other areas when loads are heavy, or assistance is needed.”

Like hospitals across the country, the Health System has struggled with staff turnover. However, the Imaging Services 75-person department has remained relatively stable. “The staff who are still here deserve credit for their undying loyalty to the community. We’re still getting the job done, doing more with less. And we will remain here doing our part to help our community,” Piper says.

Chance reports that the community’s support has frequently helped brighten their days. “The outpouring of gratitude from patients and families has made me and my co-workers realize we truly make an impact on their lives.”

COVID-19 hit close to home for Piper last January, when he and his wife caught the virus. They came through okay, but Piper, like all health care workers, still worries about bringing the virus home. And yet, they face down their fears, day in and day out, to provide quality care to their patients and community. “This is the only hospital in a small community. Many patients we see are either a friend or neighbor or family to someone we know,” Piper says.