Studying for the CRA: An Unexpected Journey
By John P. Halligan, CRA
This past November, I successfully passed the Certified Radiology Administrator examination and earned the title of “CRA.”
My journey towards becoming a CRA was filled with the unexpected. Like many AHRA members, my background in diagnostic imaging began not as a manager, but as a technologist. Due to my strong clinical skills, I was eventually presented the opportunity to become a lead technologist, then clinical director, and eventually the administrative director of a large outpatient imaging center. At times, it appeared as though I had bitten off more than I could chew. My initial training as a technologist never prepared me for areas such as human resources and finance.
I became aware of the AHRA several years ago and attended my first Annual Meeting in Washington, DC in 2010. It was there, after speaking with many fellow imaging administrators, that I began to realize my career path was not uncommon. A great many of my peers, it turned out, had moved up to take charge of large departments or institutions after entering the field as technologists. There was comfort in knowing I was not alone. I began to regularly attend both national and local AHRA meetings and always walked away with ideas, knowledge, and enthusiasm to bring back to my facility. Over time I realized I wanted to take what I had learned to a new level and set the goal to become a CRA.
I began to reap the rewards of preparing for the exam instantly. I almost couldn’t read a chapter of the AHRA Professional Development Series textbooks without trying to find a way to apply what I had learned to my facility. An example of this was to take a close look at the employee job descriptions, an area that I had honestly not given much thought to. I rewrote the descriptions and took the time to sit down and refocus with each employee to give them a clear understanding of the expectations. It surprised me to learn that I often had two people in the same position with very different opinions of what was expected of them.
While I was preparing for the exam, I attended a local AHRA meeting and struck up a conversation with Gene Bernieri and Ernie Cerdena, two AHRA members and CRAs. I mentioned how the preparation for the exam had presented me many ideas to improve my facility and how the knowledge I was gaining had real life applications that was making my job easier and more focused. They pointed out that the AHRA textbooks that I was using to prepare were written primarily by AHRA members for the members with an understanding of our needs.
As my studying progressed, I continued to notice a change in my managing style. I became more focused with more clarity as to what I was trying to accomplish. My studying showed me new ways to troubleshoot problems that I had never considered before. For example, I found myself using basic Lean Six Sigma techniques to eliminate redundancy in our scheduling department. I also found myself better articulating to the staff how and why we were looking at processes. On one occasion, I methodically surveyed staff and was able to identify challenges they faced on a daily basis that were actually easy fixes.
As I continued to utilize and experiment with what I had read, my confidence grew with each success. I was happy when my boss commented on my new found enthusiasm, and he was impressed when I told him it was all a direct result of my preparation to take the CRA exam.
Several months have passed now since I took the exam and became a CRA. I still continue to utilize what I learned during my time preparing for the exam. My textbooks, heavily marked up with yellow highlighter, are sitting on a shelf next to my desk at work. They are a reference I utilize often.
If you are thinking of becoming a CRA, I encourage you to do it! Not only for you, but for those who work around you. When you all start to see the benefits, you will be glad you did.
John P. Halligan, CRA is the administrative director at Hudson Valley Imaging in New Windsor, NY. He can be reached at email@example.com.