Tucked inside the halls at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center–Neenah is one of the best-kept secrets of health care: An educational program that’s helping to produce some of the best radiologic technologists in the country.
In fact, nine graduates of ThedaCare’s School of Radiologic Technology ranked in the top 2% of more than 12,000 students taking the American Registry of Radiologic Technologist (ARRT) board exams in 2021.
“People might not be familiar with what radiologic technology is,” said Troy Albrecht, Program Director for the school. “We are the ones who help detect cancer, or help find an explanation for someone’s pain. We also are the ones to help physicians see inside the body during a trauma, and support a person’s recovery. Radiologic technologists are hidden-heroes that support comprehensive care within a health care organization.”
The program launched in 1965 as the Theda Clark School of Radiologic Technology, and at the time was a two-year certificate program recruiting students directly out of high school. In 2015, the American Registry of Radiologic Technology required applicants to the program to hold an associate’s degree or higher.
The ThedaCare School of Radiology, which is accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology, partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh to build the program. UW-Oshkosh students first complete an associate’s degree, then can apply to radiology programs throughout Wisconsin. ThedaCare works to recruit the top students, who complete another 21 months of classroom and clinical training at ThedaCare to earn their Bachelor of Radiologic Science degree.
Since the program’s inception, about 580 Registered Radiologic Technologists have been trained through the ThedaCare program, which stands out because its comprehensive approach to education, Albrecht said.
“The wide variety of clinical sites we have for training students contribute to the quality of our graduates,” Albrecht said. “Our students are exposed to just about every scope of radiology there is, so when they graduate and begin work as a new employee, they’re ready for the job right away.”
Learning in a Clinical Environment
Students have the opportunity to work in various ThedaCare locations, becoming familiar with each site and gaining knowledge in areas including pediatrics, neurology, oncology, cardiology, orthopedics and trauma, said Albrecht.
During the trauma training, students learn how to capture images during extraordinary circumstances, when a person is experiencing a serious health situation.
With ThedaCare’s partnership with Children’s Wisconsin of Wisconsin, students also participate in clinical rotations to learn how to work with kids.
“Students work with a wide array of patient ages, and demographics of what they might see,” Albrecht said. “A partnership like this helps them prepare for the future, wherever their career might take them.”
They also have the opportunity to learn specialty modalities through elective rotations, including mammography, computerized tomography (CT), MRI and Interventional Radiology.
“We’re one of the few programs in Wisconsin that has kept CT scanning as a part of our curriculum,” said Albrecht, who is board certified in CT imaging. “It gives students an opportunity to go right into CT upon graduation. Graduates can also specialize in mammography.”
Students receive classroom training through the program’s new space at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center–Neenah. They study anatomy, physiology, osteology, radiation physics, as well as other areas to ensure they are prepared to care for patients. Students will see as many as a thousand patients per semester, witnessing a vast cross-section of patients and health issues.
“The more they do, they more hands-on they get, the better they get,” he said. “It prepares them for a variety of situations that can happen in their careers.”
By the time the students in the program are required to take their board exam, Albrecht said he feels they are prepared. Program professors include three faculty members and preceptors who supervise students in the clinical role.
Filling a Need in Health Care
The need for radiologic technologists has expanded, particularly in the past few years.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 6.3% employment growth for radiologic technologists between 2021 and 2031. In that period, an estimated 14,100 jobs should open up.
“Employers all over Wisconsin have a need for our graduates,” said Albrecht. “Because of our success, health systems are aware of the quality of students who complete our program. In fact, we are usually able to place most of our students prior to graduation.”
While the demand for radiologic technologists is felt across the state, the goal is to hire the students at ThedaCare.
“The program almost serves as a two-year interview to help us recruit and retain the best talent,” Albrecht said. “It is also a two-year interview for students to understand ThedaCare’s mission and values. The retention is very successful, and we believe that is a testament to our program.”
The ThedaCare School of Radiologic Technology staff starts recruiting students at the high school level, encouraging enrollment in the UW-Oshkosh program, and also through information sessions at UW-Oshkosh twice a year.
“We work hard to ensure the right people are on our team, including our faculty and preceptors,” said Albrecht. “Our faculty are amazing at what they do, and we have a great relationship with students where we support them to be their best. We are looking for students who always put the patient first, in every situation. Their compassion shines through when they complete the program and begin their work in health care.”
Click here to learn more about the ThedaCare’s School of Radiologic Technology, and its entry requirements.
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including eight hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique, best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts about a patient’s care. ThedaCare is proud to partner with Children’s Wisconsin and Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network to enhance convenient access to the most advanced levels of specialty care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.
For more information, visit thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.