DIXON – Radiology students at Sauk Valley Community College now can put another tool in their tool belts.
The college this summer – just last week – launched its computed tomography certificate program.
Computed tomography is a medical imaging procedure that uses computer-processed X-rays to produce tomographic, cross-sectional images, or slices, of specific areas of the body, which doctors then use to make diagnoses.
Computed tomography, sometimes called CT or CAT, as in CT scan or CAT scan, is one of many specialties within radiology. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and sonography are others.
Sauk approved the addition of the program earlier this year. Officials say certification in a specialty makes people more marketable and employable in a growing field.
“In our field, more and more procedures are going to CT,” said Dianna Brevitt, a former radiographer who now heads up the new program. “More doctors are ordering these exams because it gives them more information.”
Basic X-rays are good for viewing and diagnosing bone fractures. CAT scans, on the other hand, provide more detailed looks at the body.
Students in the certificate program all have their associate degree in radiologic technology, Brevitt said. But they have little else in common. Men and women, older folks and younger people, experienced techs and fresh-out-of-school job seekers all are “typical” students, she said.
Bonnie Lowry, 57, of Dixon, has worked as a radiology technician at KSB Hospital in Dixon for years. She jumped into the computed tomography program to keep up her skills and foster some job security.
“You don’t want to stagnate,” Lowry said. “Health care is changing. You need to grow with it. The more skills you have, the better you are for yourself and for your employer.”
Jinni Waller, 28, of Coleta, is in the middle of her 6-week clinical rotation for her associate degree as well as taking the first course in the certificate program. Kasey Druien, 22, of Dixon, is, too.
Both are seeking certification in computed tomography because they like the environment, which they describe as “fast-paced” and purposeful.
“You see more trauma patients and you’re more hands-on,” Waller said.
The certificate program is 16 credit hours: three 3-credit courses and one 7-credit internship.
Students, once they get to their internships, work in real medical facilities and train on actual radiology equipment with experienced rad techs. Sauk has partnerships with 10 sites in the region, including KSB Hospital in Dixon, CGH Medical Center in Sterling and OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford.
Students work 8-hour shifts 3 days a week.
Students who complete the program may sit for a national exam to be certified in computed tomography, Brevitt said. Certification is not a requirement for all jobs, but it might as well be and likely soon will be, she said. The certification is another perk for students, she said.