The World’s First Radiologic Technologist Was …

Sr. Beatrice Merrigan

… Sister M. Beatrice Merrigan, of the Sisters of St. Anthony. She took and passed the first exam to earn the first certificate from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).

A radiologic tech deals with the patients and actually take the images, which at the time would have been early X-rays. Sr. Merrigan and her order were running St. Anthony’s Hospital in Oklahoma City when she sat for the test on November 17, 1922. The test consisted of 10 films and 20 essay questions, and she passed with room to spare. You can see her written test answers here.

ARRT Update has more details on Sr. Merrigan’s test:

Several questions asked about the stereoscopic method for making x-ray plates. Others zeroed in on positioning of various body parts and radiation concerns. She earned the maximum five points on nearly half of the questions and got an uncharacteristic zero points on one: “What is the difference between primary, secondary and stray or indifferent radiation?” Her total score was 72, exceeding the standard of 60 by a comfortable margin.

The required films included hand, knee, shoulder, mastoid, frontal sinus, chest, pelvis, kidney, stomach – even a full set of dental films. She provided lots of actual patient information in each case: initials, age, height, weight, which wouldn’t fly under today’s HIPAA regulations. And she detailed technique: transformer, tube and screens used; developer time and temperature; distance, milliamperes and time of exposure. Grading was based on contrast, detail cleanliness and position. Just as today, her employer verified that she actually performed the procedures. Her films earned 66 points, 6 points over the standard.

Sr. Merrigan died at age 77 in 1971. Ninety years after she became RT #1, Oklahoma is one of the few states that doesn’t requiring licensure for RTs.

H/T: My wife and ARRT.

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