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In Radiology, Film Clerks Go Digital

In the ED, William Arrington, foreground, manages digital images as Jack Young looks on. Increasingly, electronic viewing and storing is replacing film, above right.
Fewer and fewer people use film in their cameras these days. So it’s not surprising that by the end of the year, radiology will be 90 percent filmless as well. “We’re already at 50 percent,” says Bill Beach, operations administrator for Radiology. “Soon we’ll be completely digital.”

For a department that performs more than 360,000 radiology exams every year, moving to electronic viewing and storage is a major initiative, one that’s saving money and time spent locating films. It’s a huge change for physicians who’ve spent their careers viewing traditional X-ray films. And for clerical staff looking to advance their careers, it’s an opportunity.

Some have signed up for a 13-week training course to become DFCs (digital film clerks). It’s been funded by Project REACH, a Department of Labor workforce development program that for the last two years has helped Health System employees gain new skills.

After passing the digital film course, new graduates—17 so far—are invited to bid on job openings in the Department of Radiology. Seven have been hired so far at a 5 percent salary increase, and the rest will soon be placed. Perhaps most importantly, they have gained new skills and the self-confidence that comes from setting a career goal and achieving it.

William Arrington says that in his old job as a film clerk, he spent his days making jackets for X-rays, filing and pulling films, and delivering them to various locations around the hospital. In his new job as a DFC3, he is an integral part of the team in the adult ED, carrying out order-and-entry tracking, operating a film digitizer, sending images to technicians and physicians, and helping clinical staff position patients for procedures.

“Just about the only thing I can’t do is push the button,” says Arrington. That’s the job of radiology technicians. (Techs take X-rays, CT scans and MRIs and attend one- to four-year accredited training programs leading to a certificate, associate or bachelor’s degrees.)

Some radiology technicians helped teach the course. Now, they have nothing but praise for their former students and co-workers. “It’s a tremendous help for us to have the assistance of the DFC3s,” says Tony Petruccy, senior rad tech. “Lots of them would make good techs themselves.”

That thought has certainly occurred to Arrington, who hopes to return to school soon. “I’m looking to continue moving up,” he says.

Jack Young, manager of clerical operations for Radiology, is hoping to get all of his staff of 47 into some sort of advanced training program eventually. Young himself is a Hopkins success story. He started in Radiology as a film clerk 25 years ago. He became a group leader and then supervisor before taking over as manager of inpatient and outpatient clerical operations. An ebullient, energetic man, Young encourages his staff to take advantage of all opportunities for education and training, much in the same way he did. “With more training, you can advance further,” he tells them.

That message has been heard loud and clear by Project REACH participants. So far nearly 1,000 employees have taken part in the program. Those who have gone on to new positions have received a wage gain of 7.6 percent, on average.

Supervisors like Bill Beach are pleased with the results for both their departments and their employees. “It’s been just beautiful to surface all this potential.”

Deborah Rudacille



Johns Hopkins Medicine

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