Tara Wainio and Carrie Allen both originally wanted careers in the arts – Tara earned a degree in graphic arts, and Carrie wanted a career in photography. The two are now radiographic technologist students, earning degrees for careers in radiology.
In this career, I can be artistic, said Tara, getting that perfect image, but it’s mixed with science.
I wanted to be a photographer, but my grandma told me, There’s no money in that!, grinned Carrie. I’m not a photographer, but I’m still taking pictures.
Tara and Carrie are students at Carrington College, and are spending eight months at Wickenburg Community Hospital in the student tech program, honing their skills in a clinical setting where they can learn the expertise needed to work in a radiology department, actually x-raying patients and familiarizing themselves with the equipment.
The students spend one-and-a-half years in the Carrington classroom, and another year of clinicals – 1,800 hours of hands-on experience.
After eight months in Wickenburg they’ll complete their remaining four months at a hospital that offers surgery experience. Once the surgery center opens in town, students will have the opportunity to spend their entire year at Wickenburg hospital.
Peter Stachowicz, director of ambulatory services, oversees student programs at Wickenburg hospital and sees the facility as a complete package in preparing students for their careers.
The x-ray program teaches specific to the profession – patient care and positioning, physics, radiation safety and anatomy, said Stachowicz. It’s the latest and greatest out there, and it’s a very intense course – there’s a lot of work involved. Schools recognize us as an excellent choice for sending their students to learn, and we see ourselves as an organization that wants to teach. We’ve been a clinical sight for more than 13 years, for many different programs. If you love your profession, it’s important to tell students why.
Both Tara and Carrie acknowledge the intensity of the program. Their days are more than eight hours of training, and each spend an hour to and from the hospital each day – Tara lives in New River and Carrie in Avondale.
In addition to school, Tara presently works as a proofreader at the Arizona Republic, where she has worked for the past 13 years.
Carrie has a full-time job of caring for her two teenage sons – a profession as time consuming and intense as school, she acknowledged with a laugh.
For Tara, the most challenging aspect of the program is positioning patients of different size and body type, for that perfect image. Carrie’s challenge is having to position patients who are in pain – a different scenario than the classroom setting.
In school, the patient reaches out their hand so you can help them up, she explained. But real patients are sometimes in too much pain to help, and it’s challenging.
Both students admit that the program has opened up a world of opportunity for them. Neither realized the numerous fields offered in radiology, and they are excited by the choices.
Tara is still open to what path to take, but Carrie feels confident she will choose the field of mammography – a specialty that requires an additional certificate after she passes her state boards.
Women have to have it done, she said, and you want to be the one they want to go to, not the one they’re dreading.
When the program is complete, both students will graduate in November and take the National Registry board test to earn state licensing, a challenging and grueling test neither are looking forward to but will have worked hard for 24 months to prepare for.
Both said they’re excited about the freedom their degree will offer, and look forward to careers as radiographic technologists.
Carrie, the older of the two, admitted she has been surprised by her success.
Being an older student has been hard, grinned Carrie, but knowing I’m capable has shown me you can teach an old dog new tricks.
This article originally appeared in The Wickenburg Sun http://www.wickenburgsun.com/ by Patti Jares, Special Reporter to the Sun