I did it! I survived my 1st year of “x-ray school”!

This time last summer I was patiently waiting for classes to start with no idea what to expect. During the year I kept a mental list of all the things I wish I had known or things I learned along the way that could help prepare someone else.

You will learn SO MUCH your first semester. Sometimes it seems like more than your brain can handle. The first week of class is overwhelming as you talk about what the next 2 years are going to be like. Did you read through your handbook yet? Do it! But don’t let it overwhelm you. It seems like so much to accomplish in such little time, but you’re taking it bit by bit.

A preview of some of the info you’ll receive your first week:

» Good news first: You have Thursdays and Fridays off for the first 8 weeks of class! After that you will have Fridays off until summer semester. For me, it was a great way to ease into going back to school. It gave me some time to cut my business back and figure out how to balance work, school, and family.

» The first day of class you’ll get a quiz on the handbook. No pressure or anything (pretty sure the answers were on the back) but make sure you read it, it won’t be the last time you have a handbook quiz.

» You’ll have pictures one day that week too. I’ll be taking them for you outside one of the buildings. They go on a poster for each clinical site so they know who they’re getting.

» Save some money each semester for club dues or fundraiser items. We’re always chipping in money for something! You’re automatically part of the Radiography Club and will pay something like $15 a semester in dues.

» The annual Wyoming Society of Radiologic Technologists (WSRT) conference is September 15-18th in Cody. Save the date and try to make it. The trip is paid for by the school and we ride together in a school van. You won’t know a lot about Radiography yet, but it’s still a good experience. I wasn’t able to make it last year with a short notice so hopefully this gives you guys a head’s up to plan ahead.

» The annual ACERT (Association of Collegiate Educators in Radiologic Technology) conference is January 25-27th in Las Vegas. It’s also a trip paid for by LCCC so go if you can! I can tell you more about what the conferences are like too so you know what to expect.

» As first year students you’re expected to come up with a radiography inspired t-shirt design. They’ll be your class shirts and are also used as a fundraiser item at the conferences we attend. Don’t worry, I can help you guys with it if you need help. It’s hard to come up with a design when you know nothing about Radiography.

» We do an annual bake sale around Halloween on campus. You’ll bring money to help pay for a raffle item, sell raffle tickets, bake items for the sale, solicit donations from local businesses, and help sell items during the bake sale. Each year we make a donation the Curie Fund, a local organization that helps with some of the expense of radiation therapy. The bake sale profits and money raised from selling t-shirts is set aside for this annual donation.


Tips for 1st year classroom survival:

» Take everything week by week, but look ahead to make sure you aren’t missing anything. The syllabus is scary, but keep your eye on it so you don’t forget something.

» Check book prices on Amazon if you’re paying out of pocket. They were tons cheaper when I bought them. The first semester will break the bank but it’s much cheaper after that. I can give you amazon links if you don’t want to search for them.

» Get used to D2L and where to find things. I don’t know how many times I thought I read all the content and missed something important. It took me a while to figure out where everything was hiding. Check it every day for new or updated content and double check with a friend that you did everything.

» Where you sit the first day of class is probably where you will be the next 2 years. Maybe that’s normal, it’s been a long time since I’ve taken in person classes. Get there early if you want first dibs.

» Find someone with a similar study style and commit to weekly get togethers. Even if you just talk about what you learned, it’ll help you figure out what things you need to study more. The times I skipped studying were the times I did the worst on tests.

» Make sure you’re actually understanding the material. The classes move really fast. If you’re confused and don’t seek help, it’ll only get worst.

» There are lots of opportunities for extra credit. They want you to succeed, so don’t worry about them trying to weed out the weak or anything crazy. The tests and quizzes are always stressful, but it won’t be the end of the world if you do poorly on one.

» When more than 50% of the class gets an answer wrong on the tests, Starla (and Ashleigh too) will give those points back. When you review the test the next day, write down those questions because they’ll end up being extra credit on the next test!

» You only have 8 credits your first semester. You may want to keep it that way so you can get adjusted and just have less work to do, but some people take extra classes or work a job. It’s possible to do but doesn’t work for everyone. I chose to take a pilates class just for some stress relief after class.

Surviving clinicals:

••Your clinical site will be determined by Ashleigh each semester. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else based on where you go. You may be disappointed by certain sites while your classmates may love it there and visa versa. You also may feel like a certain site puts you behind, but the next may put you ahead. You will get plenty of experience with a variety of clinical sites for a very well rounded education! Your first semester you will go somewhere local to you (if possible). You will commute to certain places and stay local for others. Ivinson in Laramie is a place everyone goes to. Some people will commute to Wheatland for clinicals but not everyone will. Some will go to the orthopedic clinic here in Cheyenne while others will go to Fort Collins/Loveland to the orthopedic center there, but you only go to an ortho place once. Some will go to the hospital more than once, or go to the first clinical site a 2nd time later on.

»  Your patient won’t die if you have to repeat. Even if you have to repeat every single view of a 4 view bilateral knee exam.

» It’s actually harder than you think to do a fake x-ray if you’ve never done a real one. It just seems so staged and awkward, but I’m super self conscious. Do what you have to do, even if it means practicing at home alone with an invisible friend. The first semester of class is mostly Ashleigh doing mock exams with students as her patients. After your 2nd semester you get over it, especially because you have to do pretend exams for final positioning.

» Final positioning.. probably the most intimidating part of the semester (you don’t have to do it your first semester, don’t stress yet!). You draw exams out of envelopes and perform them just as you would on a real patient. You have to remember how to position, how many degrees to angle, to shield the patient, ask about pregnancy, and how much to collimate. All without the book. It gets easier though.

» Your first semester of clinicals will be challenging. You will know basically nothing, yet you’re thrown in there to figure it out. You just have to practice as much as you can, and take every opportunity to watch the techs. Those pour techs though, it’s hard work teaching first semester students!

» Some techs will be amazing teachers, others will be… not as amazing. The good thing is that you work with such a wide variety of people at the clinical sites so you aren’t with the same person for long; the down side is when you find someone you mesh perfectly with you have to leave.

» Every site will be different and you’ll constantly learn new things, or change things you thought you already knew. Ask any of us for inside info to certain sites if you want to know. Some sites you’ll have tons of freedom, others you will be supervised constantly. There’s pros and cons to every clinical site, and your favorite place may not be the same as your classmates.

» You may form habits from techs or clinical sites that you will have to change when you go somewhere else. Try your best to do as many of the “routine” exam things as you can, even if no one else does (shielding every patient, getting 2 forms of identification, asking patient history even if it’s brief, checking the order and confirming the body part and side with the patient). It’s really hard to re-train yourself to do something when you lost the routine. Every tech does things differently and every clinical site has different protocols to follow, it doesn’t mean they’re wrong or bad, but as students we have to always remember the basic routine for every exam.

» To add to that, there are times when you just have to do something the way that certain person teaches you (when you’re with them), and then do it completely different when you’re with someone else. It’s great to have an opportunity to learn from a variety of people, but it can be tricky to remember who and what and when and how… What a tech tells you to do trumps what you think the book says you should do, unless patient safety is a concern.

» To piggy back on the last one, there are so many things that the book will say that you do differently in the real world. Find a way to remember what things are different from the book because your tests are on the book, not what you do in real life.

» Sometimes it will seem as if you can’t do things right no matter what you do. You really have to learn to read each technologist and know when to ask questions and when not to, when to watch them do an exam and when to ask to do it yourself, or when to do something they way they taught you and when to find a way that works better for you. It’s always a challenge to mesh your learning style with each tech’s teaching style.

» Do not compare yourself to anyone else. It’s really tough when you’re sharing clinical sites with classmates, but you have to remind yourself that everyone learns different things at different times. You can’t compare what you’re doing to anyone else in your class, just focus on what you are good at and what you can improve. Easier said than done.

» When you leave a clinical site you will feel proud of the things you improved on, yet as soon as you start your new site you find 10 new things to work on. That’s what’s so great about this program, with such a variety of clinical sites you are getting a well rounded education. It may feel like 2 steps forward and 200 steps back at times, but it feels great when you accomplish a goal you set for yourself!

» Let yourself make mistakes. You will make soooo many and it will be frustrating, but don’t let the fear of making mistakes hold you back from improving. That first time you totally bomb a chest x-ray you will wish you could take a bathroom break every time another shows up, but face that fear head on until you love chest x-rays. Usually the exams you suck at are the ones you hate the most, so practice until you love them.

» DO NOT FORGET, this is a 2 year long job interview. You can still make mistakes and make a good impression. Remember that they’re all taking time out of their day to help us succeed, and it’s just as frustrating for them as teachers as it is for us as students!