National Imaging Technologies Week 2022: celebrating the technologists who “show us the way” to care for patients

Donald Hooker standing in front of imaging technology in a hospital

Each November, National Radiologic Technology Week is celebrated to recognize the vital work of imaging professionals across the nation. The week-long celebration, from November 6 to 12, calls attention to the important role medical imaging technologists play in patient care and safety. In 2022, HCA Healthcare is celebrating this observance as Imaging Technologies Week to recognize our more than 8,000 radiologic and many other imaging technologists who “show us the way” to treat our patients medically while offering compassion, empathy and dedication during their care journey.

Headshot of Crockett Bone
Crockett Bone, Assistant Vice President of Imaging and Essential Services, HCA Healthcare

“Our imaging technologists are integral to our ability to treat patients safely and effectively, and are essential members of our larger care team,” said Crockett Bone, assistant vice president of imaging and essential services at HCA Healthcare.

“Theirs is a story of resilience over the past few years, as they have navigated the pandemic and balancing their workload with inpatients, outpatients and ER. They are true advocates for patients and each other, working together to provide the best possible outcomes.”

Crockett Bone, assistant vice president of Imaging and Essential Services, HCA Healthcare.

Integral, versatile members of the care team

Medical imaging is used to diagnose, monitor and treat injuries and diseases, giving physicians a clear picture of what’s happening inside a patient’s body. Our imaging technologists are the healthcare professionals who make it possible to “see” during diagnostic and therapeutic procedures.

HCA Healthcare’s imaging technologists practice in hospitals, clinics and physician offices and across many clinical specialties, from oncology to orthopedics. They are educated in anatomy, patient positioning, examination techniques, equipment protocols, radiation safety and patient care. They maintain clinical and technical skills to support real-time guidance for tissue sampling and surgical procedures, acquisition of images for cancer screening and surveillance, and vascular or organ-specific evaluation of traumatic injury.

Imaging technologists may practice general radiography or specialize in an imaging technique such as:

  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • computed tomography (CT)
  • mammography
  • sonography
  • bone densitometry
  • cardiac or vascular interventional radiography
  • nuclear medicine

These colleagues sometimes specialize in one modality, but often they are versatile across many. And as team players, when needed, especially through the pandemic, they step up to raise the bar for patient care, wearing many hats and going above and beyond to support the care team.

Growing an imaging technology career in direct patient care

Lourdes Zamora standing next to a MRI machine
Lourdes Zamora, RT (R)(CT)(MR), MRI Technologist, Rose Medical Center

Lourdes Zamora RT (R)(CT)(MR), an MRI technologist in the radiology department at Rose Medical Center in Denver, is a perfect example of an HCA Healthcare imaging colleague who has grown her career with the organization while maintaining a focus on direct patient care.

She began her career at Rose Medical Center 24 years ago, where she served as an X-ray technologist for two years prior to an evaluation and discussion with her leadership team that sparked her journey to cross–train in the imaging technology field. She went on to learn and practice CT imaging for five years before advancing to MRI, which she has specialized in for the last 17 years.

While she now spends the majority of her time in MRI, Lourdes is versatile in that she can help as needed across other specialties. Especially in these times of industry-wide staffing shortages, she is happy to be a team player and adjust as needed.  And during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, she volunteered for whatever was needed, including work in the ER and screening for COVID-19 patients.

“I am so proud to work for an organization that supports you in your chosen path, whether you are on a growth track or switching gears. I am challenged and learn every day and have been given opportunities to move up even though I have remained firm in my desire to continue working in direct patient care as opposed to a leadership track. This is why I have stayed with the organization so long: I truly believe my leaders want what’s best for our patients and me.”

Lourdes Zamora RT (R)(CT)(MR), MRI technologist, Rose Medical Center

A community of caregivers

At HCA Healthcare, we know first-hand the power of community and connecting colleagues for greater impact. We’re applying that knowledge by connecting our imaging technology colleagues in more meaningful ways to harness the power of their collective expertise and leverage it for them and patients across our organization.

We’re introducing ‘Knowledge Communities’ to connect imaging technology leaders with their peers to share information on best practices, policies and protocols. Beginning with our MRI supervisors, these communities will encourage collaboration in support of excellent patient care, colleague experience and care team support.

We know from experience that we provide the best care when we leverage the very best of our people and teams. And in the increasingly matrixed healthcare environment, it is more critical than ever that we stay focused on connection not only among peers, but our entire care teams. This creates better patient outcomes, opportunities for colleagues and experienced, well-rounded leaders for HCA Healthcare.

Connecting the dots: from imaging technologist to chief operating officer

Headshot of John Gerhold
John Gerhold, Chief Operating Officer, HCA Florida North Florida Hospital

With a keen appreciation for the big picture, John Gerhold has embraced connectedness in every step of his journey to his current role as chief operating officer at HCA Florida North Florida Hospital in Gainesville, Florida. He began his career as an imaging technologist and has used that experience to improve hospital operations across the board at several of our hospitals.

As director of radiology at HCA Healthcare’s Lakeview Regional Medical Center, a campus of Tulane Medical Center, John was part of the medical action steering committee that wrote Radiation Right, a guideline for imaging policies, certifications and more. His ability to see the big picture and make tangible improvements in the radiology department helped him forge a path for growth in that role, becoming director of women’s imaging and central scheduling, rehabilitation service, and food and nutrition…and eventually assistant administrator at the Covington, Louisiana-based hospital.

While at Lakeview Regional Medical Center, John was asked to participate in HCA Healthcare’s Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), formed in 2010, to improve the patient experience. As IHI Champion, John partnered with the IHI team to evaluate patient experience scores at 50 hospitals, developing strategies to improve the patient experience across all departments. Through this experience, he transformed his mindset from a radiology standpoint to helping solve challenges across all departments. He helped earn Lakeview the No. 2 spot on the list of best hospitals in the IHI group and expanded his perspective on what a journey to success could look like.

He moved on to a successful stint as vice president of operations at Tulane Medical Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. He later became HCA Florida Westside Hospital’s chief operating officer (COO) and chief staffing officer, where he turned the culture around and improved operations at multiple levels, including for the stroke care program. Now, as COO at HCA Florida North Florida Hospital, he has built its stroke program to the top 2% in the country and No. 1 at HCA Healthcare. He credits this to his imaging background and operational mindset but also to his understanding of the importance of teams working together to maximize processes, technology and care team collaboration among ER, nursing, imaging and more.

“I challenge all my colleagues to be No. 1 all of the time and never be complacent. I ask them to think about what they do really well, but also what frustrates them and how to approach opportunities for improvement,” John said. 

“Whether you are an imaging technologist informing a physician’s diagnosis, or an executive working toward organizational improvement, we all have an opportunity to be problem solvers and make a difference. And cross-team collaboration only makes us better.”

John Gerhold, MSHCM, R.T.(R), chief operating officer, HCA Florida North Florida Hospital

The future of imaging technology

HCA Healthcare’s imaging services continue to grow in both scope and scale, accelerated by technology innovations like device mobility, artificial intelligence, molecular imaging and image fusion and navigation technologies. Coupled with necessary innovation brought on by the pandemic, the world of imaging technology has taken great strides into the future in the past few years.

Technology and workflow resulting from the pandemic and workforce shortages have changed how we leverage technology for imaging procedures, documentation and more. Some of the ways we are doing this include the following:

  • Ongoing evaluation and pilots of remote technologies assisting in the decompression of CT staffing pressures
    • Will use to perform and assist in new hire onboarding, cross-training, planning patient scans, and performing image reconstruction remotely
    • Potential applications in CT and MRI
  • Improving technologist workflow with more efficient documentation and billing processes in our build of next-generation electronic medical records (Meditech Expanse)
  • Pursuing new PACS technology to improve technologist/radiologist communication to enable more efficient QA/QC of image data
  • Optimization of technical integrations necessary to decrease manual data collection and/or data entry activities

At HCA Healthcare, all colleagues are guided by our mission commitment to the care and improvement of human life. Our imaging technologists uphold that mission every day, leveraging the latest technology to benefit our communities, our patients and sometimes… themselves.

Radiology director diagnosed with heart disease using new technology he helped implement

Donald Hooker standing in front of an imaging piece of technology
Donald Hooker, Director of Radiology, HCA Healthcare affiliate Methodist Hospital

Donald Hooker, 49 – director of radiology at HCA Healthcare affiliate Methodist Hospital in San Antonio, Texas – feared the day he would be diagnosed with a cardiac condition after his older brother passed away from a heart attack at age 52. His brother’s identical twin also had a cardiac stent. Due to his family history of diabetes and heart disease, he committed to living a healthy, active lifestyle and regular screening with his primary care physician.

After he experienced what he believed to be COVID-19 symptoms, Donald went to a local clinic and was ordered a COVID-19 test and a panel of other tests, including an electrocardiogram (EKG). The results were alarming. His heart rate was low, with an abnormal rhythm. Donald informed his physician that he had recently experienced sporadic and sudden rapid heartbeats that would last a few seconds each time.

With his family health history and current heart symptoms, Donald was advised to immediately make an appointment with his cardiologist to examine his heart health and assess his cardiac risk.

The following day, Donald visited with his cardiologist, Dr. Nandish Thukral, medical director for the Methodist cath lab and director for complex percutaneous coronary intervention, who ruled out a heart attack after an EKG was administered. Dr. Thukral then ordered a coronary CT angiogram (CCTA) with simulated fractional flow reserve (FFR), a new artificial intelligence technology that Donald introduced to Methodist Hospital under the direction of Dr. Michael Lane, chief of cardiac radiology and director of advanced cardiovascular imaging for Methodist Healthcare. This new technology would help physicians identify blockages in the arteries, also known as coronary artery disease, which can lead to a heart attack.

Donald was brought back for the CCTA and given a tablet of nitroglycerin to help the CCTA scan better visualize the coronary arteries by dilating the vessels and a beta blocker. This medication slows the heart rate safely. IV contrast material is administered into the arm vein, and the patient then undergoes the CCTA/heart scan. The CCTA images are sent directly to HeartFlow, where artificial intelligence algorithms, trained analysts and computational fluid dynamics are used to create a personalized, digital 3D model of the patient’s coronary arteries. It then uses powerful computer algorithms to simulate blood flow and assess the impact of blockages on blood flow to the heart. Within hours, the analysis is delivered to the patient’s physician via a secure web interface. It provides information on a patient’s arterial blockage and the impact the blockage has on blood flow to the heart. The entire process is dynamic and can be viewed by both physicians.

“Before I knew it, I was discharged and sent home,” said Donald. “The CCTA FFR was noninvasive, requiring no hospital stay nor hospital admission.”

Historically, physicians and cardiologists must decide which diagnostic test is best suited for each cardiac patient to examine blood flow to the heart through the coronary arteries. Identifying blockages early before a heart attack or during episodes of atypical chest pain is critical. Many diseases can simulate coronary artery disease and or cause chest pain. The most accurate test is heart catheterization. This exam is especially important when the physician or cardiologist is confident that the patient is having a heart attack or is unstable. The CCTA with simulated FFR is an opportunity to accurately look for coronary artery blockages without the more invasive heart catheterization.

Methodist Hospital is the first facility in South Texas to adopt this first-of-its-kind technology, enabling physicians to diagnose patients with suspected coronary artery disease (CAD), the most common form of heart disease. The non-invasive personalized cardiac test provides unprecedented visualization of each patient’s coronary arteries, enabling physicians to determine whether medical management or an invasive procedure is necessary.

Donald was diagnosed with minimal arterial stenosis in his left anterior artery and is regularly monitored by his cardiologist. The CCTA FFR technology is not only enhancing the lives of cardiac patients under Methodist Hospital’s care but has enhanced the life of one of its own.

“I love working here because of my incredible staff who care for our patients. Each day I come to work, it gives me great satisfaction knowing that the entire Methodist Radiology Imaging Services Department is uniquely positioned to play an important role in the transformation of care for our patients and their loved ones. We are a department that demonstrates dedication as well as timely and compassionate care.”

With gratitude for our imaging technology colleagues

In a challenging season and past year for all of our imaging technologists, we hope you feel appreciated by your communities, colleagues and patients. We recognize your invaluable role in patient care and know that healthcare delivery does not happen without you. Please know that we are grateful and “see” the contributions you make daily.

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 183 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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