An Interview with Joshua Santiago
“Pursuing a degree in x ray technology is a great option for anyone who wants to enter the medical field but is unsure of what to focus on specifically.”
Joshua Santiago is pursuing an Associate of Arts in Radiology at Ponce Paramedical College, which is located in Ponce, Puerto Rico. He plans to transfer to another university to finish his studies in x ray technology after he graduates from his associates program.
Joshua was primarily influenced by his father to pursue an associates degree in radiology. After completing his schooling, he plans to work as an x ray technician in a hospital or clinic.
In your own words, what is x ray technology?
X ray technology uses radiation to look inside solid objects. Health professionals like radiologists and sonographers use x ray technology to look inside the human body. For instance, a trained x ray technician can use x ray technology to determine the extent of a bone fracture or to see if a fetus is developing properly.
Why did you choose to study x ray technology?
My initial interest in x ray technology came from observing my father, who is a certified MRI and ultrasound technician. His profession always seemed like fun to me. Then my interest in the field was further sparked a couple of years ago through my personal experience as a patient in intensive care. In particular, the portable x ray machines caught my eye. It seemed like magic to me that the technicians could see inside me.
When you first considered studying x ray technology what were your expectations?
When I began my x ray technology program, I was a little surprised to find out that I would have to study concepts in atomic science like molecules and electron structure. But any medical field requires intensive study, and now I know that the study of atomic particles is essential to understanding how x rays are generated.
What do you find most and least enjoyable about studying x ray technology?
I enjoy virtually every aspect of studying x ray technology. Every piece of information I have received in classes so far has intrigued me. I especially love those moments of sudden understanding when I grasp a new concept for the first time.
However, there is quite a bit of rigorous scientific study involved in x ray technology that I find challenging, if not unenjoyable. In addition, since I am studying in Puerto Rico, all of our classroom materials are written in Spanish. But since all of the machines we will use have instructions and manuals in English, we occasionally encounter language issues. But I am still enthusiastic about the program, despite these challenges.
What kinds of classes have you taken in your x ray technology program?
In the early stages of my x ray technology program, I have taken scientific courses that teach me how x rays operate at the molecular level. I have also taken courses in proper radiological practice and procedure. I participate in a weekly laboratory class too. For the lab class, I get to travel to a hospital or clinic to observe professional x ray technicians at work. I like the hands-on work that I get to see in the lab classes, so I wish we had labs more often.
Eventually I will get to take classes in a specialized area of x ray technology, but I haven’t decided on a particular specialization yet. Some common specializations that x ray technicians pursue are chemotherapy, MRI, ultrasound and sonography.
What resources do you use to help you succeed in your studies?
One resource that Ponce Paramedical College provides is transportation for its students. The school provides a bus that serves the entire island of Puerto Rico. It takes me and the other students to class in the morning and at home in the evening, which is a 3-hour round trip each way. I think that is an exceptional way for the school to reach out to students and make going to college more accessible for a lot of people.
The other major resource that has helped me is the camaraderie of the other students in my program. We work together to help each other through the language issues that arise due to the dual language of instruction. I am glad I have people to help keep me focused during class.
Have you done an internship in your field?
I haven’t done any sort of internship in my field, because it isn’t required for my associates degree in radiology. The reason an internship isn’t necessary is because my program is very grounded in practical training. It involves many hours of laboratory courses that take place in hospitals and clinics to provide students with a realistic vision of their future career.
What personality traits do you think would help a student to succeed in a x ray technology program and what traits would hinder success?
A personality trait that I would consider crucial to a student’s success in an x ray technology program is observance. Students need to be observant so that they do not miss important details about radiology and the structure of the body. Observance is especially important in my program because materials and instruction are presented in 2 different languages.
What is your weekly schedule?
I have regular class 4 days each week and a laboratory class once each week. My day starts at 5:00 a.m., which is when I catch the bus to school. I take several hours of class each day, so the program is challenging but not overwhelming. I still have enough free time to maintain a part-time job.
How do you manage your course load? What study tips would you give to a prospective student?
My course load is not that demanding, so I excel at my studies as long as I practice basic time management. I am also helped by the fact that I constantly think about what I have learned in class, so the information naturally stays fresh. I feel that any competent student could perform well in this program if they put in the effort.
What are your plans for after graduation?
After graduation I will probably work in a hospital or clinic as an x ray technician. The job outlook is promising throughout the healthcare industry. For example, I am not even done with my program but I already have an interview with a potential employer in Connecticut.
What advice do you have for students who are interested in studying x ray technology?
I would tell students that pursuing a degree in x ray technology is a great option for anyone who wants to enter the medical field but is unsure of what to focus on specifically. X ray technology can lead to a broad understanding of multiple medical disciplines, because the content of an introductory radiology course is similar to intro courses in other medical fields, such as nursing.
If you do decide to pursue an x ray technology degree, you should pay close attention in lab classes that teach equipment operation and procedure. As an x ray technician, your techniques will be examined by a certification committee every several years. You will need to stay proficient and consistent in your work in order to remain employed.