MARCH 2015 • Vol. 4, Issue 1
The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) wants to share “Competency-Based Education: A Brief Overview” with the SMRT for publication. This article is based on content previously published by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT) and is used with permission of the ASRT. Link to read below article.
Competency-Based Education: A Brief Overview
Tricia Leggett, DHEd, RT (R)(QM)
How would you describe a competent, entry-level radiographer, magnetic resonance technologist, or radiation therapist? Depending upon your clinical environment and communities of interest, there may be a myriad of descriptors and not necessarily one standardized response. The Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary defines competency as “marked or sufficient aptitude, skill, strength, or knowledge and being legally qualified or capable”1. How is this term then applied to the profession of radiologic technology and more specifically, the educational process for becoming a competent, entry-level practitioner?
Various professional organizations have validated the importance of competency-based education and incorporated it into their respective roles in the profession, from the onset in the learning process through the progression to the clinical environment and workplace. For example, radiologic sciences programs accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) are required to provide competency-based education and are monitored via various objectives in the relevant Standards for accreditation. A competency-based curriculum allows for effective student learning by providing a knowledge foundation prior to performance of procedures. Continual refinement of the competencies achieved is necessary so that students can demonstrate enhanced performance in a variety of situations and patient conditions. In essence, competency-based education is an ongoing process, not an end product. The American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT) provides the approved curricula as well as the practice standards and scopes of practice that address competency in the clinical environment for radiographers, magnetic resonance technologists, and radiation therapists. Finally, the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) states in its Competency Requirements, that clinical competence is affirmed when “the program director or designee has observed the candidate performing the procedure and that the candidate performed the procedure independently, consistently, and effectively”2. The ARRT requires graduates to have completed didactic and clinical competencies for eligibility to take the certification examination.
Competency-based education has been in place in allied health programs for several years, but has begun to gain wider acceptance due to the renewed focus by the Obama Administration and the 2013 policy agenda, “Making College Affordable: A Better Agenda for the Middle Class”3. Competency-based education has two major attributes that increase student success. The first is that it aligns the educational process toward demonstrated mastery with the application of knowledge and skills in the clinical environment. Students are not only memorizing rote facts for a single term or course, but must build upon the cognitive knowledge and apply it to the laboratory setting and ultimately, the clinical environment. This in turn, decreases the gap between academics and employers, resulting in a better understanding of the knowledge and skills that students will need to succeed as entry-level practitioners. The importance of advisory groups and communities of interest cannot be overemphasized since these individuals are most knowledgeable in current and future clinical skills requirements. The second attribute of competency-based education is that it provides a means for helping quality and affordability to co-exist in higher education, which is critical in this time of federal oversight of resources3.
There are specific guidelines that determine success for a competency-based education program and these can be readily applied in the education of students in the radiologic sciences 3. A brief overview of these guidelines follows:
Competency-based education has proven to be an effective instructional methodology for radiologic sciences programs. It assures the didactic arena of higher education is intimately aligned with the clinical environment, thus producing graduates who are adequately prepared for the workforce and the important task of maintaining patient safety.
Table: JRCERT Standards and Objectives That Address Competency4, 5, 6
Radiography (R), Magnetic Resonance (MR), Radiation Therapy (RT)
1. Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary. Definition of competency. http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/competency. Accessed December 26, 2014.
2. American Registry of Radiologic Technologists Radiography didactic and clinical competency requirements. https://www.arrt.org/pdfs/Disciplines/Competency-Requirements/RAD-Competency-Requirements.pdf. Accessed December 26, 2014.
3. Johnstone, S. and Soares, L. Principles for developing competency-based education programs. http://www.changemag.org/Archives/Back%20Issues/2014/March-April%202014/Principles_full.html. Accessed December 26, 2014.
4. Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology. Standards for an Accredited Educational Program in Radiography. http://www.jrcert.org/programs-faculty/jrcert-standards/. Accessed December 26, 2014.
5. Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology. Standards for an Accredited Educational Program in Radiation Therapy. http://www.jrcert.org/programs-faculty/jrcert-standards/. Accessed December 26, 2014.
6. Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology. Standards for an Accredited Educational Program in Magnetic Resonance. http://www.jrcert.org/programs-faculty/jrcert-standards/. Accessed December 26, 2014.
E-Signals is a publication by the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine for the benefit of the SMRT membership and those individuals and organizations that support the educational programs and professional advancement of the SMRT and its members. This publication is the compilation of the leadership of the SMRT and the contributions of the staff in the ISMRM Central Office.