ARH focus: improving cardiac care

Published 1:06 am Saturday, October 10, 2015

Rita Langford likes to focus on matters of the heart.

That doesn’t mean the technologist in Andalusia Regional Hospital’s radiology department is all wrapped up in the romance du jour. Langford, RDCS, RDMS, RVT, and CNMT, spends her days doing diagnostic tests for heart health.

Rita Langford, RDCS, RDMS, RVT, CNMT, says cardiac diagnostics is her favorite part of her job.

Rita Langford, RDCS, RDMS, RVT, CNMT, says cardiac diagnostics is her favorite part of her job.

“We started doing nuclear cardiology exams in January,” Langford said. “We have a brand new echocardiography machine we got in June.”

While there are six technologists qualified to conduct the test, Langford recently went to Dallas for additional training. When she returned, she and her co-workers collaborated to update techniques.

“A lot has changed in the medical field,” she said. “With the new machine, we’re trying to get all of the new technologists scanning in same format. We use the same procedure for every patient, and for every doctor who orders the test.”

Local cardiologist Dr. Greg Price explained that an echocardiogram uses sound waves to access the condition of the heart.

“It’s the same thing we use to monitor babies when they’re being born,” he said. “We look at valves and heart function.”

It’s a diagnostic tool used when patients present with shortness of breath, swelling, and edema, he said.

Adopting new guidelines for administering the test means echocardiograms conducted at ARH are the same as those done at other hospitals.

“No matter who reads it here, or if we ship a patient to UAB, it’s all the same standard,” Price said.

It’s also the first step toward accreditation for the department, CEO John Yanes said, adding that the hospital also is working to be accredited as a chest pain center.

Both Langford and Price said it’s important for patients to understand they don’t have to go to a larger market to have this test done.

“We are probably doing about five of these a day,” she said.

Price said in the past, someone who presented at the hospital’s ER with chest pains might be sent home and have to wait days for an appointment to have the test. Now, they can have the procedure much sooner.

“From a technologist’s standpoint, it’s important for people to realize whether the technologist is in Birmingham or Andalusia, we all got to the same schools and have the same certification process,” she said. “People have mindset bigger is better; but that is not always true.”

Because Andalusia is a bit more remote, there is greater pressure to make sure local health care providers have appropriate training, Yanes said.

“What we’re doing here is building our clinical capability, concurrent with most current trends,” he said. “You don’t have to leave our community to get that care.”

Langford, who previously worked at ARH, has been back at the hospital for a little more than a year.

“I enjoy helping people,” she said. “My job here allows me to focus on what I really like, which is cardiac side. With the nuclear stress test and echocardiograms, we can focus on the heart. It is such a dynamic organ.”

“We are lucky to have her back at our facility,” Price said. “The employees in that department have done an amazing job with our patients. She has helped improve the quality of echoes gotten at facility. She’s stepped out and helped teach others. The entire department has made amazing strides forward to improve what we do for patients.”