Discover Professor Kelly Eaton's Path to Becoming a PACS Specialist

The new Medical Imaging Informatics certificate option allows individuals to advance their career as a Picture Archiving and Communication System (PACS) specialist. Here to share her path to becoming a PACS specialist and instructor in the certificate program option is Assistant Professor Kelly Eaton, M.S., R.T. (R)(ARRT)(CIIP).

After graduating with my associate degree in Radiologic Technology in 2002, I accepted my first full-time job as a radiologic technologist at a major hospital in Omaha, Nebraska. Thinking back on my first position, I truly loved working as a technician, interacting with patients and getting to work with students from several radiography programs who rotated through the hospital.

In 2005, I decided to go back to school and earn my Bachelor of Science in Medical Imaging degree from Clarkson College. During this time, the implementation of the PACS was introduced at the hospital where I was employed, and I soon found myself assisting with a variety of go-live issues, troubleshooting and performing daily maintenance duties on the new system.  

My supervisor quickly sensed my interest in the technology and asked me to be a super-user who worked closely with our Cerner PACS vendor and serve as the go-to person when other technologists had issues. This timing worked out perfectly, as I decided to concentrate on PACS-related courses during the final semesters of the Medical Imaging program. I was also able to complete a PACS externship at the hospital, which ultimately provided me the opportunity to dig a little more deeply into what I regularly dealt with as a super-user. 

Upon completion of my bachelor's degree, I was offered a new position at the same health care facility as a PACS Systems Analyst. As with any new job, I was excited and nervous at the same time and truly hoped that I made the right decision with my career switch. I knew that I was going to miss the patient care and interaction as a radiologic technologist, but I also knew that I was ready for a new challenge.

As a PACS Systems Analyst, I worked with a team of four people, and together we helped monitor and troubleshoot issues, and provide daily maintenance and updates for everything involving PACS. In complete honesty, it was a huge transition for me. My office was located in the IT department several buildings away from the hospital, and it was different not being in the radiology department. I also missed the patient interactions and working hands-on with the technologists and radiologists, but I knew this was all part of my new journey and that all I needed was time to adjust to my new role.

In my new position, I worked in the radiology department quite a bit more than I thought I would. I also traveled to other clinic locations and satellite hospitals associated with the main campus hospital and facility. A few short weeks into my transition, my team nominated me to be the "first line of defense” analyst because I understood the workflow of the radiology department, felt comfortable working with radiologists and knew how an image was supposed to look on a viewing workstation. 

Overall, working as a PACS Systems Analyst was an amazing opportunity where I learned so much. Every day brought something new as I became more and more comfortable in my position. From the daily interactions with PACS users, including vendors and other associated departments, to taking PACS calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to walking a physician through the steps to find a patient's exam at two in the morning, the position was challenging to say the least, but also very rewarding at the same time. I am grateful for the time and experiences I had and wouldn't trade it for the world. 

I worked in my position as a PACS Systems Analyst for over two years and then was approached in 2009 with the opportunity to teach in the Radiography and Medical Imaging programs at Clarkson College. It was an opportunity that I was nervous about taking, but I couldn't be happier with where I am today. I am now an Assistant Professor and recently celebrated my 10-year anniversary at Clarkson College. During my time here, I successfully passed the American Board of Imaging Informatics (ABII) certification exam and became a Certified Imaging Informatics Professional (CIIP). I also returned to school to complete my Master of Science in Instructional Technology degree in 2017.

In reflecting on my career, I truly love the path I have taken. From starting out as a radiologic technologist and working with PACS to now creating and teaching courses in this exciting field, it has been an amazing ride. I will admit that I miss the patient interaction, but I still get to be experience it when I visit our radiography students as they rotate through their clinical sites. 

With that being said, whether you are a new student taking your first step into the world of radiology or a seasoned technologist who wants to advance your career and learn more about PACS, I hope the Medical Imaging Informatics certificate is as exciting for you to complete as it was for me to create. I hope you enjoy completing the courses and build confidence to sit for the certification exam.