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Mitchell Tech Announces Avera Gift for Radiologic Technology Program Expansion

Mitchell Technical College will expand one of its most popular programs, thanks to a generous gift from Avera.

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Officials from both entities came together Wednesday to announce a donation from the healthcare organization to support the expansion of Mitchell Tech’s Radiologic Technology department, continuing a partnership that has been in place since the program’s start in 2000.

“Radiologic technologists are one of several critical needs to our workforce at Avera, especially given our rural footprint. We are proud to work with Mitchell Tech on this important donation of equipment to expand this program. It will allow Mitchell Tech students to train on the same equipment used at Avera locations to make the transition from the school to work environment seamless,” said Doug Ekeren, Regional President and CEO of Avera Queen of Peace Hospital in Mitchell and Avera Sacred Heart Hospital in Yankton.

Mark Wilson, president of Mitchell Tech, said the college is proud to be able to answer the needs of the industry in partnership with Avera.

“The demand for rad techs is growing,” Wilson said. “Every year, our graduates are sought after before graduation, because the field is growing quickly. With Avera’s help, we will be able to grow our program, both in what we can offer to our students and in the number of students we can reach.”

Dr. Carol Grode-Hanks, vice president for academics at Mitchell Tech, said the partnership was a natural fit.

“Avera has been a clinical partner and a strong supporter of our program since the very beginning,” she said. “They employ a lot of our graduates, and they have been a steady partner as we’ve seen our program grow and change. It is a pleasure to work alongside them as we take the leap into this next phase.”

“Avera is an incredible place to train and work. It’s tremendously fulfilling to work in health care and to contribute to something that is larger than yourself. Mitchell Technical College has been a wonderful partner to Avera in educating and training students to enter health care successfully,” said Ekeren.

The gift, which comes at an undisclosed value, will provide needed funding and match what Mitchell Tech has budgeted for this expansion project. It will provide for a GE Definium Tempo fixed X-ray system in a state-of-the-art facility inside renovated space within the Campus Center building.

“It will be very modern,” said Barb Wright, clinical coordinator for the program. “Medical equipment is always changing in our industry. Thanks to this gift, our students will be prepared to work with state-of-the-art equipment the moment they walk into their clinicals, meaning the health systems will have to spend less time preparing them to give patients the best possible care.”

The program’s four instructors will be able to simultaneously work with three groups of students in their updated department, which will now feature two traditional lab spaces, with an improved mobile lab acting as a pass-through emergency department.

“We will be able to oversee multiple simulations simultaneously,” allowing students to acclimate to the fast-paced nature of their chosen field, Lisa Herrmann, director of Mitchell Tech’s Rad Tech Department, said. “It will be one unified area, which will allow three times as many students to practice at one time, in order to better accommodate the lab hours each student is required to have prior to graduation.”

Mitchell Tech officials say the expansion is coming just in time to see the Rad Tech department into its next phase. The highly sought-after program was the college’s first to fill for Fall 2022, and is already full for 2023, with a waiting list growing weekly.

“We anticipate that interest in our program will only continue to increase as we introduce this new equipment and more modern environment,” said Herrmann.

Over the last two years, the program has increased in capacity from 15 students to 24, and this year a fourth instructor was added, in anticipation of next year’s expansion of the Rad Tech program, plus the addition of a third-year Sonography option for those who have already completed their Radiologic Technology training, similar to Radiation Therapy.

“Especially in rural settings, it is important that rad techs be cross-trained into other radiologic modalities,” Wright said. “X-ray is the base knowledge that every hospital and clinic needs. Training our students to conduct ultrasounds just makes them more employable and a bigger asset, especially in rural hospitals, where they don’t do enough sonography to justify hiring another person full-time. For them, a candidate who is already cross-trained stands out in the application pool, because they’re able to provide more comprehensive diagnostic imaging.”

Work is anticipated to commence on the Rad Tech expansion at the close of this school year, and be complete in time to open in Fall 2023.

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