|Sonography senior Rayna Hubbard prepares to use an ultrasound machine during clinicals at Muskogee Regional Medical Center. (Baconian Online photo by Chesley Oxendine)
Today's college graduates enter a wounded economy and tight job market.
Bacone's sonography and radiography students however, frequently gain employment before graduates even get a degree.
Radiography, accredited through the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT), experienced nearly 30 percent pass rate growth in five years. Bacone Radiology graduates, certified through American Registry of Radiologic Technologists surged 59 percent (2007) to 87 percent (2011).
Acting Director of Radiography Shawn Dixon attributes improved rates to the school's faculty who form the program's “backbone.”
“You need people who can instill in the students what they're going out there for,” she said, “and give them the tools they need.”
Dixon, an x-ray technician since 2002, said Bacone’s Radiography program’s reputation is success.
“When I started teaching here [in 2007], we were called the ‘Harvard school,’” she said. “Our students carry a high standard of education and GPAs behind them.”
The acting director said she juggled an active family life during college, and understands challenges facing her students.
“I’ve been there. I’ve done that,” Dixon said. “I tell them to look right and left – those people have problems, too. We have to push through it.”
Radiography senior Joshua Good said his professors do “everything they can to help.”
“When we have a hard time passing a test, they let us take it again or do study groups,” said Good. “They take a lot of time out of their personal schedule to help us.”
The Fayetteville, Ark. senior said he originally came to Bacone for football.
“I took some classes, leaning toward being a coach or teacher,” he said. “Then I heard about Bacone's nationally known radiography program, and so I decided I had to find a way to get in there.”
Good said he enjoys working closely with people, which radiography affords.
“You're talking to the patients, and you're the eyes of the doctor,” he said. “You can't get a diagnosis if you can't see it.”
Radiography received a major equipment upgrade in 2009, including standard and wall “buckies,” which stabilize patients during x-rays, plus an AmRad Classic Floor Wall/Floor Ceiling digital x-ray machine that replaced traditional film device.
Dixon said Bacone's cutting edge tools mean students now duplicate in class what they find on the job.
“Technology wise we needed to catch up with our clinical sites,” she said. “We're there now.”
The acting director, a 2002 Bacone radiography graduate, said successful clinical experiences help students get jobs.
“We actually call clinicals a 'two year job interview,'” Dixon said. “Some of these students have jobs before they even leave here [Bacone].”
Bacone graduate Stormi Hyslop received an Associate's of Applied Science in Radiography in May 2011.
Currently employed at Creek Nation Wetumka Clinic, Hyslop said clinicals were her “foot in the door.”
“I began work at Creek Nation Community Hospital (CNCH) in Okemah,” she said, “thanks to the Bacone radiography clinical experience.”
A CNCH manager remembered Hyslope's character and work ethic, she said, and invited her back for an interview two months after graduation.
Hyslope said Bacone's radiography degree, compared to those from other schools, gave her an edge in getting hired so quickly.
“I wanted to graduate with a degree, not just a piece of paper,” she said. “That definitely has advantages.”
The x-ray technician said instructors played a part in her success, as well.
“They're really great at helping you understand things,” Hyslope said, “even if they have to stay late afterwards.”
Executive Vice President and Dean of Faculty Dr. Robert K. Brown described the radiography program that originated in the 1970s, as a mainstay.
Sonography began in 2007 with its first graduating class in 2008, said Brown.
For Sonography senior Rayna Hubbard, the program’s biggest strength is acting director Cindy Rich.
“Cindy is really encouraging and helpful and she wants us to pass,” said Hubbard. “If you are struggling, she knows this, and she'll pull you to the side and spend her free time going over all the material.”
Rich, who brings over 20 years of ultrasound experience from Muskogee Regional Medical Center, said attending clinicals shapes a necessary bond with students.
“Ultrasound is a one-on-one thing,” Rich said. “It’s important that I get out there and build a relationship with my students, so they know they can come to me if there’s a problem.”
Ashley Miller, a protégée who graduated in 2008 with the inaugural sonography class, said clinical experiences build familiarity with potential employers.
“[Work sites] met me, saw that I could scan, and what kind of character I had,” said Miller. “They already knew me before they met these other [applicants.]”
Miller worked at Muskogee Regional Medical Center, Muskogee Community Hospital, and then came full circle to Bacone where she now teaches students how to scan minute organs and tissues in Small Parts (DMS 2053) as an adjunct instructor.
The recent graduate said she knows her students “have lives and have kids.”
“That has to be taken into consideration,” the adjunct sonography instructor said.” I was sitting where they were a few years ago. That helps me teach them.”
Also helping teach students are three Acuson ultrasound machines, said Brown, the school’s chief academic officer.
But even state-of-the-art equipment is not as important as faculty, Brown said.
“We have faculty who are committed to this profession and know what it takes to be successful,” Brown added. “We have good equipment, but it's the people committed to our students that help us succeed.”
This continued success remains customary for Bacone, he said.
“The school has a longstanding tradition of helping to meet the demand for health care workers in this region,” Brown said, “and we going to continue to do so.”