The Registered Radiologist Assistant certification gives radiologic technologists an opportunity to prove their skills and position themselves for leadership roles in their industry. As such, the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists has established a rigorous examination to evaluate readiness for this advanced role. To even qualify for the exam, radiologic technologists must:
- Register with the ARRT and complete their certification in radiography.
- Earn any accredited bachelor’s degree before the examination date.
- Have completed at least a year of clinical experience in radiology.
- Comply with strict ethics requirements.
- Complete a radiologist assistant education program that is approved by the ARRT – These are often built into master’s degree programs, and the University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College’s BRST degree can prepare students to pursue a master’s degree.
These core requirements take a great deal of work and emphasize the weight placed on an ARRT certification. The high standards are there to ensure radiologic technologists seeking the RRA certification are ready for what is a challenging, complex, and rewarding examination. Follow these three tips to ensure you are prepared for the exam and put yourself in a position to succeed.
1. Work on Your Communication Skills
The RRA exam is scored on a scale of 200 points. Within that, 45 points are devoted to patient communications, assessment, and management. In other words, the exam heavily weighs people and communication skills as part of the certification. It isn’t all about technical competencies and medical knowledge. Because of this, the examination puts communication skills at a premium, with key competencies covered by the exam including:
- Performing major patient education elements, such as explaining procedures, alternative options and the potential risks and benefits of a given test.
- Providing patient support in diverse ways, ranging from being culturally aware to understand factors that may impact patient comfort with an exam to being able to explain social support structures that are available to patients.
- Completing patient assessments through a combination of medical data review, patient interviews, risk factor analysis, laboratory testing and identifying the psychological status of an individual.
- Managing patients throughout the testing process. This portion of the exam covers key issues such as meeting the needs of patients with disabilities, following standard precautions and responding to medical emergencies that may arise during a procedure.
Communications skills represent a vital component of the RRA exam. Of the six categories covered by the exam, only one takes up a larger portion of the examination (anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology). Communication, assessment, and management make up a larger portion of the exam than:
- Drugs and contrast materials.
- Radiologic procedures.
- Radiation safety, radiation biology and fluoroscopic operation.
- Medical-legal, professional and governmental standards.
If you are still in the early stages of working toward the RRA certification and have not yet obtained your bachelor’s degree, it may be wise to consider a program that emphasizes communications and leadership skills to help you get ready for the examination. For example, the University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College’s BRST program includes courses such as Leadership Strategies in Healthcare, Research and Writing in Health Professions, and Interpersonal Connections in the Workplace.
2. Broaden Your Clinical Skills
The RRA examination incorporates a wide range of competencies in order to assess a technologist’s ability to lead a team that may be involved in a variety of test activities. ARRT has released a detailed list of the types of activities that are considered entry-level clinical activities for an RRA. The list features 42 clinical activities, some of which cover multiple specific types of procedures as processes can vary depending on the nuances of a given assessment. Furthermore, clinical skills extend beyond performing tests and also involve some of the administrative work that must be completed as part of an RRA role.
All told, the list of clinical activities that RRA applicants must be skilled in is substantial. Here’s a sampling of a few:
- Monitoring ECGs.
- Administering moderate sedation.
- Monitoring oxygen as prescribed.
- Operating a fixed or mobile fluoroscopic unit.
- Assessing medical records and identifying any red flags prior to a procedure.
- Completing radiology-focused physical examinations and data analysis.
A number of these clinical activities are learned when aspiring radiology sciences professionals obtain their associate’s degrees. Students enrolled in UC’s Blue Ash College’s BRST program can enhance their current clinical skills, as necessary for the RRA certification exam.
The breadth of skills involved in radiology sciences is significant, and the RRA exam doesn’t just evaluate knowledge of these skills. It also expects technologists to be able to enact these capabilities intelligently in care settings. Within the six-hour exam, there is a two-and-a-half-hour case study module that asks participants to answer strategic questions about how they would respond to different situations. If you want a clear idea of what to expect from the case study portion of the RRA exam, check out a sample from the ARRT here.
3. Brush Up on Exam Procedures
Exams can make even the most prepared individuals nervous, but understanding what to expect on exam day and being ready for the logistics of the assessment can go a long way to keeping nerves in check. With this in mind, here’s what you can expect in terms of preparing for the exam, taking it and what happens in the aftermath.
Preparing for the RRA exam: The ARRT mandates that applicants for the RRA examination file a document pertaining to the organization’s rules of ethics. Essentially, the form asks about an individual’s background, particularly in terms of criminal record, and an explanation of any actions that are considered offenses. Detailing criminal history is the first question of the ethics check, with the second asking about any disciplinary actions taken by regulatory or certification boards in professional settings. Beyond that, the ethics check also asks about violations or sanctions relative to ARRT’s honor code.
The ethics check is a major step in preparing for the exam, but applicants must also make sure they have met the eligibility requirements mentioned earlier in this article, file an application form and include a passport-quality photograph on the application.
Examination day: The actual exam is completed on a computerized system and it is possible that other exams, potentially for entirely different organizations, may be happening simultaneously. Trained personnel at the exam center will be present to proctor the exam. You will need to provide at least two forms of identification, are expected to arrive early (ideally by at least 30 minutes) and will be provided with materials, such as a note board and calculator, as needed. It is allowable to take a break during the exam, but you won’t be allowed to leave the exam center.
Quick tip: The score is based on the number of correct answers, not a ratio of correct vs. incorrect answers, so it is always best to answer a question, even if you are guessing.
After the exam: As the exam is copyrighted, all details about the exam are contingent to a non-disclosure agreement and strict security in place to protect against duplication of materials. ARRT will typically mail exam scores to individuals within two or three weeks of the exam.
Preparing for the RRA exam may feel like a huge task, but a bachelor’s degree in radiation science technology can help to alleviate this burden. The University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College’s BRST program can help you not only meet the bachelor’s degree requirement, it also creates a foundation for entry into radiology assistant master’s degree programs, which are also critical in obtaining the RRA certification. The breadth of skills and experiences offered through the University of Cincinnati Blue Ash College’s BRST program can prove instrumental in helping individuals prepare for an RRA certification.