Since its inception in 1984, the Radio-logical Service Training Institute (RSTI) has offered formal hands-on training classes for diagnostic imaging. With a selection of more than 30 courses, RSTI has trained more than 10,000 service professionals from more than 30 different countries in radiology, mammography, computed tomography (CT), ultrasound, networking, picture archiving and communication system (PACS), and digital imaging and communications in medicine (DICOM).
Terry Speth, president and CEO of the Solon, Ohio-based company, recently spoke with 24×7 regarding the complexities of staying current in technology and how the company is succeeding in doing so.
24×7: What types of classes does RSTI offer?
Terry Speth: Classes offered at RSTI always have been on the leading edge of technology. As diagnostic imaging has changed, RSTI has been the first to move with new technology. For example, we were the first to offer a BS degree in health care by getting RSTI credit hours accepted by Eastern Michigan and Georgetown universities.
We also were the first to offer independent diagnostic imaging training; multi-vendor diagnostic imaging training; capital-asset management; in-depth digital- and filmless-integration training; and our own PACS system, so that we could add DICOM, connectivity, and TCP/IP to any course.
Classes are taught by way of lecture and are hands-on in the representation of diagnostic imaging equipment used in the United States. We now have 26 different labs with current imaging equipment. We rarely teach in hospitals or other imaging facilities because we firmly believe that students should get their hands dirty by taking apart and troubleshooting our equipment. You cant do that in a hospital.
24×7: As a training and educational center, how does RSTI stay ahead of technology and keep classes current?
Speth: Our instructors take advanced courses to stay abreast of changing technology. In the past year, we attended the International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE) conference in San Diego, Mitra in Canada, and Merge Technologies in Florida. We also have attended training sessions at original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), such as Lorad, [a Hologic company] in Connecticut.
Our instructors have specific areas of expertise, and it is their responsibility to stay ahead of the technology curve. Many times, they spend time doing research on their own or in combination with the above. Sometimes, in developing the very first class, we will coordinate several guest speakers, giving our instructors the necessary objectives to achieve the goals of the course.
24×7: What are the biggest challenges the company faces?
Speth: Very few people in the industry understand how difficult it is to obtain the right imaging equipment at the right time. To begin with, obtaining equipment for educational use is very costly. It also can take weeks to develop the curriculum for a new piece of equipment like a mobile C-arm or laser imager, which are the focuses of two of our newest courses.
Just as difficult as obtaining equipment is the task of hiring and maintaining top-notch instructors. Many people have the knowledge base, but getting up in front of 20 students every day, 38 weeks per year, requires a special individual.
24×7: How does the company overcome these challenges?
Speth: Every January, RSTI does a complete review of the entire company. We agree on 10 objectives that will make us better, and then we give ourselves 11 months to get them done. We start with the labs and review every facet of our training business. This is when we decide to invest in new equipment and/or training for our instructors. For example, this year we are adding bone densitometry and multi-vendor CT training. We also added a complete HP/IBM, 2-terabyte PACS system about 4 months ago.
24×7: Where do you see the biomedical industry heading?
Speth: In-house biomeds are coming into radiology on a regular basis. Not only do they have to learn the physics and geometry of imaging, but they now have to know an entire new digital product line.
Over time, the industry will become more digital. This means that students we trained in the past have to come back and learn digital imaging. Whats more, new entries into imaging need to have more than a basic training of digital technology because an increasing number of hospitals carry equipment produced by more than one major OEM. It used to be that a hospitals radiology equipment was all manufactured by a single company. Today, hospitals buy from the best supplier in a particular modality. We make sure that when a technician leaves our training center, that person has the knowledge needed to perform in these complex and diverse environments.