The Need for Competency Management Systems in Radiology

By Marion Karl, MS

December 03, 2021

The Need for Competency Management Systems in Radiology

It is critical for medical staff, especially in robust imaging departments, to stay inspection ready. This is an ongoing task, and the best compliance strategies should be designed around competency assessment efforts. For radiology centers, where imaging processes require manual calibration of sophisticated equipment with potentially hazardous exposures, managing competency is a top priority.

To help an organization confidently perform and report accurate and reliable imaging results, competency assessment is required on a semiannual basis. But anyone familiar with the Joint Commissions’ Imaging Standards knows the checklist is long and constantly being amended. To keep up with an evolving set of guidelines, compliance management platforms offer a modern-day grace.

What is the role of competency assessment in radiology?

The Joint Commission is a global enterprise that helps health organizations across the care continuum meet rigorous standards to provide safe and effective care.1 Their Imaging Standards were developed to help radiology departments delivery high-quality care by achieving industry-mandated expectations – including staff performance.

For radiology centers to operate at the top of their game, the Joint Commission’s Imaging Standards cover a variety of topics from dose management to equipment maintenance. The knowledge and practical skills included in the Imaging Standards checklist should be at the core of competency assessments. Without a competent team, standards will suffer, and noncompliance will plague a facility’s ability to provide needed services.

What are the standards of competency in radiology?

The general capabilities and clinical attributes required of trainees – and for which competency must be assessed – are prescribed in the Joint Commission’s checklist. Following these prescriptions can be viewed as akin to achieving sign-off on a long list of competencies. While additional competencies may exist for specific radiology procedures at one health facility versus another, the following basic areas can benefit from competency management.

Access to Imaging Areas

In radiology departments, there are strict policies regarding who can access the imaging area and equipment. Imaging standards require the screening of all personnel and patients before entering the radiology room (ensuring, for example, the exclusion of ferromagnetic objects or implants), along with signage to prevent unauthorized access.2 But as the Joint Commission notes, there is a great need for competency assessment in this area as access guidelines are frequently subject to noncompliance.2

Maintenance and Quality Control of Equipment

All imaging equipment must be carefully calibrated and routinely tested, and a scientist or medical physicist is tasked to evaluate equipment performance on an annual basis.2 All actions and frequencies pertaining to the maintenance, inspection, and testing of radiology equipment, in fact, must be identified in writing.2 However, quality control logs detailing maintenance activities and timeframes are often left incomplete, reflecting room for management to improve staff competencies.2

Staff Training

Documentation for training protocols and ongoing education on radiology processes should be kept current and made easily available – specifically, content on dose optimization techniques and safe operation of equipment.2 Standards further require availability of documentation authenticating the qualification of technicians and scientists who support radiological services.2 In other words, standards dictate that the competency of all radiology staff be verifiable and accessible.

Radiation Protection Standards

Radiation dose used for common imaging protocols should be regularly checked by a medical physicist and documented for each test type. The safe output of radiation equipment should be evaluated before initial use and after major repairs or upgrades. Standards on radiation safety further demand monitoring of staff exposure levels along with dosimetry results; all injuries resulting from imaging processes or dose should be immediately recorded and reported. Managing radiation safety is perhaps the most important area for which competency must be demonstrated. Failure to comply with these standards not only affects the accuracy of imaging results but is dangerous to patients and personnel alike.

Why is competency management important?

Radiology is a science that relies on finely tuned equipment to deliver highly accurate results in the safest possible manner. All personnel with access to radiology equipment must demonstrate full competency for any test they are approved to perform. Competency is measured by the knowledge and performance of radiology staff; it is further revealed in how equipment is maintained and how well patients are processed.

As you can imagine, pressure to comply with imaging standards (represented in a lengthy checklist and continually revised pending new safety findings or when equipment is updated or replaced) is a tortured affair. Imaging centers can greatly benefit from integrating competency management software to help radiology departments maintain important clinical standards and automate competency assessments.

What are the benefits of competency assessment software?

Dedicated competency assessment software can streamline an organization's ability to meet the Joint Commissions’ standards and offers assurances that all radiology personnel maintain core competencies. Software designed to automate competency assessment procedures can administer related tasks, track the users’ actions, and provide alerts regarding completion timelines.3 In addition, relevant documentation and manufacturer guidelines are made accessible to your staff anytime, anywhere – a valuable resource for maintaining competency.

StaffReady offers workforce management solutions

Competency assessment software by StaffReady is updated with your organization’s current content and integrated into a centralized platform.3 The software can then generate custom checklists and quizzes (or upload existing ones) which it monitors to ensure that your staff competencies stay up to date.4

Newly published training documents are pushed out routinely and employees are delegated tasks and deadlines that are managed through a web dashboard.4 Using automation, StaffReady notifies a department manager when staff receives new assessment material and tracks when they’ve reviewed it. Quizzes can be used to identify competency issues and alert the department manager to areas in danger of non-compliance.

What it means to implement StaffReady software

The goal of StaffReady solutions is to help Radiology departments meet precise imaging standards. When you implement StaffReady Competency software, it not only ensures the continued professional development of your team but also promotes improved staff engagement and communication.5

StaffReady’s centralized assessment management platform automatically engages staff to keep them aware of changes that affect competencies. With the standardized assignment and recording of competency assessments, healthcare organizations that implement StaffReady products are well-prepared to track competencies and maintain compliance.

Your organization can lead with complete confidence when you implement StaffReady solutions. Let the competency of your staff translate to confidence in the safe and effective operation of your Imaging department.

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  1. Joint Commission Web site.
  2. Compliance Checklist: Joint Commission’s Imaging Standards. Joint Commission Web site. Updated April 2020. Accessed November 19, 2021.
  3. StaffReady Competency. StaffReady Web site. Accessed November 19, 2021.
  4. Competency Assessment made simple. StaffReady. Accessed November 19, 2021.
  5. Ramsden W, Rubin C. Establishing competence in radiology. Health Management. 2018. Accessed November 19, 2021.

Photo credit:

Marion Karl, MS

Marion Karl is a medical illustrator, writer, and content designer for the biomedical and health industries. Marion and her husband own a boutique animation studio, Lure Animations, specializing in the production of medical content. Marion received an MS in Biomedical Visualization from the University of Illinois at Chicago and an MFA in Fiber and Material Studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She completed her undergraduate education at Cornell University.

Marion was recently published as a contributor and associated editor on the Wiley project A Guide to the Scientific Career: Virtues, Communications, Research, and Academic Writing.