Atlantic Health System, in an effort to allow existing team members to obtain radiological technologist certifications or to become certified pharmacy technicians, has created what it is calling “tech schools” — programs based at Overlook Medical Center in Summit.
The programs are aimed at not only enriching the skills of Atlantic Health System’s own workforce, but also bolstering the number of team members at its hospitals who hold these certifications, which are in high demand in the health care field.
“Training our own team members gives us the dual advantages of having individuals who are already acclimated to our organization, who are now simultaneously a whole new group of certified professionals that we can call upon when we are in need,” Lauren Yedvab, chief operating officer at Overlook, said. “This means we can put them into action sooner to provide care for our patients.”
The radiology tech program began in September with 30 students. The pharmacy program began in early October with two students. Funding for the programs was provided by the Overlook Foundation.
Both schools involve classroom learning, which are provided through a partnership with Advanced Imaging Review and John Patrick University (radiologic), and the Therapeutic Research Center (pharmacy). This is combined with hands-on clinical training, in which students are paired up with individuals within the specialty they are learning.
The program concludes with exams reviewed and scored by professional credentialing organizations in each field — the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists for radiology; the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board for pharmacy.
According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of pharmacy technicians has been projected to grow 4% from 2019 to 2029, due in part to increased demand for prescription medications. Overall employment of radiologic and MRI technologists has been projected to grow 9% from 2020 to 2030, according to the bureau.
For the radiology school, applicants must be licensed with the state, registered with ARRT and are already trained as radiologic technologists. The students are then trained in CT scanning, MRI and mammography, to achieve certifications in those specializations. The program ranges between 5 to 10 weeks, depending on the specialty. The goal is to train about 120 team members each year.
Anthony Mungo, director of radiology for Overlook Medical Center, who is leading the radiology tech school, said such programs are both a great employee retention tool and a boon for the health system.
“Through this program, we are making the multimodality technologist,” Mungo said. “The versatility this training provides makes them more valuable in their field and gives Atlantic Health System greater flexibility to fulfill demand for these services.”
The pharmacy technician school, a 12-week program, also aims to fulfill a burgeoning demand, said Agnieszka Pasternak, manager for pharmacy services at Overlook, who is leading that program.
The program is targeting team members with high school diplomas or the equivalent, currently serving in other occupations, who may be seeking different careers with the potential for growth, she said.
“Pharmacy technicians perform vital functions to support the patient care efforts of the pharmacy team,” Pasternak said. “As pharmacists’ duties have gradually become more clinical, techs are taking more operational role, and their job responsibilities are expanding. As our outpatient offerings and specialties grow, we have a greater need for them.”