When you work in the healthcare field, you have to get used to change. Research leads to breakthrough technologies and new ways of doing things all the time, which is why so many disciplines, including radiography, have continuing education requirements in place.
After you have received your mammography certification, there are continuing education requirements that must be met for it to remain active. The purpose of continuing education is to ensure that the technologist stays up to date with current practice and research and keeps their skills sharp in areas that they might not work in every day. It’s also a comfort to patients to know that the person obtaining these important images is skilled and knowledgeable.
All radiography technologists, including mammographers, have to meet the same requirements for certification and registration renewal, with the specifics depending on the area of specialization. As a mammographer, you are expected to pursue educational opportunities that will help you in your day-to-day work. This Guide will help you know how you can remain actively qualified as a mammographer.
How do I get a mammography certification?
To understand how the continuing education credits work, it helps to understand everything that is required to get a certification in the first place. To stay active, you have to follow the rules and regulations and meet ethical standards, as well as complete the required continuing education, which builds on what you already know from your initial studies.
Mammography is considered a specialty, so before you can get certified as a mammographer, you first have to get registered as a radiography technologist. Radiographers capture x-rays of the body and assist radiologists in various procedures.
To become a radiographic technologist and by extension a mammographer, you’ll need an associate’s degree. This can be done on its own, but there are a lot of programs that integrate obtaining a degree with the rest of the education required to sit for the certification exam.
There are educational and clinical requirements specific to becoming a radiography technologist that must be completed as well. After all of the requirements are met, you can sit for the radiological technologist exam. Once certified, you can work independently as a radiography tech and begin pursuing certification as a mammographer.
Education requirements for becoming a mammographer include completing 16 hours of additional coursework within the 24 months before sitting for the mammography exam. There are clinical requirements, too, including completing 25 supervised mammograms to satisfy the MQSA requirement, 75 additional screening or diagnostic procedures working with an interpreting physician, as well as participating in QC and elective exams.
After these are completed, you can sit for the certification exam, which assesses the knowledge and skills needed to perform entry-level tasks as a practicing mammographer. The topics cover the same task inventory used to determine clinical requirements. After you pass, you can practice independently as a mammographer, though you still have to maintain records on the completion of your coursework and documentation of the 25 mammograms you completed to meet the MQSA requirements.
Mammography Structured Education
The information taught in the mammography coursework is what is covered in the initial certification exam and in renewing your certification. One of the requirements for renewing a certification is a structured self-assessment. This test consists of 10 questions about patient care, 10 about image production, and 20 about procedures, including mammographic positioning, special needs, imaging procedures, and anatomy, physiology, and pathology. There are 20 unscored questions as well. All of these questions are based on things that you learned in your original coursework and by working as a mammographer.
How long is a new certification active?
When the credentialing is first issued, it remains active until the end of the next birth month, unless the two months or less have passed since the certification was issued. In this case, the certification would be good until the birth month of the following year.
For example, if you were born on May 1 and passed the exam on September 1, your certification would expire on May 31. If you passed the certification exam on April 1, your certification would be good until May 31 of the following year.
What Is the Renewal Process?
An Application for Renewal of Certification and Registration must be filled out correctly and submitted to ARRT. Every other year, you must document the continuing education credits that you obtained. Although you must renew this license each year, you don’t have to submit continuing education every year, which gives you a little more flexibility as to how and when to complete them.
The dates for the biennium periods are available on your online dashboard with ARRT. If you have just received your certification, the period in which you can begin accumulating CEUs begins on the first day of your next birth month.
Do I have to maintain my radiologic technologist certification, too?
Yes, you have to maintain both your original certification and the mammographer certification to remain active, but the CE credits only have to be done once and should focus on the specialty. In other words, mammography CEUs will satisfy the requirements to maintain a radiography certification, too.
That said, these CEUs do not necessarily meet the MQSA qualifications.
What is the MQSA?
The Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA) is not the MQSA antitoxin. It’s a law that was established to set minimal standards ensuring that all women have access to a quality mammogram and dictates the accreditation body for the profession.
According to the American College of Radiology, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women, second only to lung cancer when it comes to mortality from cancer. Because of mammography screenings, more than 60 percent of breast cancers are caught when they are still localized. This has a five-year survival rate of 97 percent, perfectly demonstrating the importance of screening mammograms.
In 1992, US Congress passed the interim regulations of MQSA due to concerns over patient safety and the quality of screenings. It set minimum standards and final regulations that are enforced through accreditation, inspection, and certification of both the equipment and personnel at mammogram facilities. This is one reason why continuing education units are required in the profession.
What are the MQSA requirements for continuing education?
In addition to the 25 mammograms required for initial certification, MQSA regulations also spell out specific continuing education requirements for radiologic technologists performing mammograms.
After the third anniversary of the original certification on the last day of the quarter, you have to complete at least 15 CEUs within the 36 months leading up to the facility’s annual inspection date. All 15 of these CEUs have to be specific to the mammography equipment you use at the facility where you work. If you fail to do so, you will be unable to perform unsupervised mammograms until you complete the necessary continuing education.
If you’re using a new modality for obtaining images at the facility where you work, you must have at least eight hours of training in the new modality.
An MQSA certificate has specific continuing experience requirements, too. These must be completed by the second anniversary of the original certification on the last day of the quarter. You must have performed a minimum of 200 mammograms during the 24 months leading up to the facility’s annual MQSA inspection. If you fail to meet this requirement, you are unable to practice independently until you perform 25 mammograms supervised by a qualified technologist.
MQSA Requirements and ARRT CE Requirements: How to Obtain Your Continuing Education Credits
ARRT has specific requirements as to what constitutes a continuing education credit. The learning activity must be planned, organized, and administered to enhance the skills and knowledge that the radiologic technologist uses to provide services to patients, the public, or the profession.
An hour is defined as anywhere from 50 to 60 minutes, and anything longer than one hour can be awarded partial credit. For example, a 90-minute course would count as 1.5 CEUs; a 30 to 49-minute course would be considered 0.5 CEU; anything 15 to 29 minutes is considered 0.25 CEU. Activities less than 15 minutes do not qualify as CEUs. ACR accreditation is usually required.
Continuing Education Requirement
To maintain active certification, you need to complete 24 CEUs in each biennium, and remember, in some cases, these can also count toward the MQSA requirements.
Documentation and recording of CEUs is your responsibility. You must obtain proof that these hours were completed and submit the required documentation at the end of the biennium. If you do not do so, you will be placed on probationary status until the requirements are fulfilled, which can have major implications if you are working as a mammographer full time.
Audits of CEU records are done at random, and you have to keep proof of completion for a full year after the end of the reporting biennium or 18 months if being reinstated after probation. An MQSA inspector can ask you for this information at any time.
Documentation must include a certificate that identifies the activity completed as well as the name of the participant and a pre-printed date. Handwritten dates are not accepted. This certificate of completion should also include the title of the activity, the category designation, the number of hours, the name of the sponsor, and an RCEEM or RCEEM+ reference number, and the signature of an authorized representative.
Electronic records are also accepted if the CEUs are completed at least two months before the end of the biennium, but it is important to verify that they have been accounted for before renewing the certification to avoid any issues.
In some cases, facility training is accepted as CEUs, but this can be no more than eight hours of the 24 required.
Qualification Requirements Every 10 Years (Continuing Qualifications Requirement, CQR)
Radiological technologists who have obtained credentials after January 1, 2011, have to fulfill certain additional requirements every 10 years to make sure that those who have been practicing for a long time stay up to date in the newest technology and approaches to care and treatment.
ARRT’s Continuing Qualifications Requirements have three parts. The first is a professional profile, filled out online, that asks you about the types of procedures you perform at your job and how often you perform them. When you are done, you’ll receive information about the breadth and depth of your experience and how it compares to other people in the field.
Next is a structured self-assessment, which asks you about the knowledge and skills required for someone entering the profession today. Note that this is not a test, just a way to assess how your knowledge and skills match up to current practices.
Finally, there is prescribed continuing education. Not everyone will have to do prescribed continuing education, but if your self-assessment shows that you are lacking knowledge in one or more areas, you will be assigned appropriate courses to improve.
Mammography CEU Options
There are several ways to obtain mammography CEU credits, but the easiest and most convenient way is to enroll in an online course. Individual classes are available, as are bundles that provide a comprehensive education at a discounted price. After completion, you can print off a certificate saying you completed the course to save for your records.
When choosing a course, it’s best to choose something that is directly related to the work that you do every day. Courses can be repeated and submitted for CEU credit, but not in the same biennium.
Why Continuing Education Matters
The driving force behind the MQSA was making sure that all women had access to high-quality mammograms. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it has saved thousands of lives by providing the standards necessary for effective breast cancer screenings. As a mammography technologist, you play an important role – perhaps the most important role – in obtaining high quality mammography and what that means for diagnosis and treatment.
You might be questioning why you have to take additional courses and earn CEUs if you’re working hands-on as a mammographer every day, and the answer is simple. Medicine is always changing. Advancements are made every day, and to take advantage of them, you have to know about them.
Staying educated in your chosen field can do nothing but good things for you and your patients. The role of a mammographer is so important to the identification and treatment of breast cancer, and you have to do everything you can to be the best team member you can.
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