In Conversation With … Marlene Stodgell-O’Grady

Marlene Stodgell-O’Grady, Director, Quality Safety and Education, Alberta Health Services, retired from the profession this year.

The Registrar had the privilege of capturing Marlene’s reflections on her remarkable professional journey and the profession.

On technology and change impacting practice, Marlene says ‘The conundrum of these technology advancements is that they have changed everything and they have changed nothing’.

Congratulations on your retirement! Many of us are looking forward to that time in our life, and some of us who are drawing closer to that time have ‘mixed’ feelings about it. How are you liking retirement?

I am really enjoying retirement though it has only been just over a month. Retirement for me doesn’t mean ceasing being active but the opportunity to move on to other interests that you didn’t have time to pursue while you are working. There are so many ways that I can take the experiences that I had the privilege of having during my career and applying them to new interests.

Please share key milestones or your proudest moments in your career. Is there such a thing as a ‘career defining moment’? If yes, then how does one recognize it?

It is hard to define one moment as there has been hundreds of moments. Each role that I have held has had its own defining moment. The moments range from the first time I held the hand of someone who was dying and providing them comfort as they took their last breath to having the opportunity to lead the implementation of a peer review program in AHS that is not only a national leader but an international leader.

What has made each moment defining for me is the recognition that this moment was why I became a health care worker. It is doing what I believe in and that is providing patients the best care that we possibly can. As an MRT, I have always felt that sense of achievement when I got those textbook images, but it was always those moments where I connected with the patient that left the lasting impression.

Please tell us about the significant changes in medical diagnostic and therapeutic technology that have occurred during your career.

During my career technology has advanced from wet processing of images and setting your mAs by setting the mA and time to fully digital imaging. It has gone from 2 CT scanners in the province to CT being basic standard of care. When I started my career, ultrasound was only beginning to be used and MRI and PET did not exist. 3D imaging and fusion imaging was only a vision in science fiction films like Star Trek. The implementation of PACS has facilitated the access to images anywhere in the province that the patient is being treated.

Please give us a sense of how these changes have impacted practice.

The conundrum of these technology advancements is that they have changed everything and they have changed nothing. We have so much more diagnostic and treatment capabilities but the goal has never changed – to help diagnosis what is wrong with the patient, assist the physician in planning the appropriate treatment and where appropriate, provide less invasive treatments for the patient.

Are there any significant future trends or game changers that stand out for you? Please share your thoughts on this.

As technology advances, we see that the fusion of images from the different modalities (e.g. PET, CT, MR, ultrasound) provides improved diagnostic and therapeutic capabilities. As the fusion of these images become more and more standard of care it will be important for the profession to adapt to the technology advancements. We will have to change our way of thinking about being imaging technologists/specialists. There will be a greater need for imaging professionals that are competent in multi-modalities. This will require that we reconsider the current modality silos that we have created and consider how we train, assess and maintain competency of technologists that will work in this environment.

What does it mean for you that the public receives safe, competent and ethical care?

For me, this is the basis for patient and family focussed care. It is partnering with the patient and respecting their personal health care choices while providing a high-quality service in a compassionate, empathetic manner. It is always striving to ensure the safety and quality go hand in hand.

Collaborative practice is essential for the delivery of patient centered healthcare. How can members embody and promote this concept in their own practice?

To work collaboratively we must first understand our scope of practice. In a multi-disciplinary environment, we need to remember that many of the skills that we use as part of our practice are also embedded in other professions as well. It is important to look at every individual situation and be aware of who is competent to perform the task at hand and who is best to perform it. We need to guard against getting into “turf” wars, instead thinking about what is best for the patient.

What are the elements of professionalism that you believe every MRT should embody?

My favorite quote (which people can attest was always posted on the wall of my office) is from Michael J. Fox, “I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.” I feel that the most important element of professionalism is to strive to do high quality work at all times – striving for excellence. It is my whole-hearted belief in the importance of striving for excellence that has inspired me to focus my career in the last 15 years to Quality in healthcare.

Other elements that I believe that every MRT should embody (and they critical to striving for excellence) are:

  • Accountability – holding yourself accountable for your words and actions, particularly when you have made a mistake;
  • Competency – ensuring that you maintain your competency so that you can perform your job effectively; and
  • Integrity – being honest with your manager/supervisor and your patients.

What “soft skills” do you feel have been most valuable for you throughout your career?

This is a difficult question to answer as I know what I think has helped to open many opportunities throughout my career, but this could best be answered by the people who saw something in me and offered me new challenges. That being said, the soft skills that I look for in others are compassion; passion to continually learn and grow; willing to support and encourage others; and being a team player.

I strive to and I hope that I have demonstrated these soft skills during my career.

We have worked together on so many fronts related to the profession and the mandate of this College – provincial advisories, critical input on practice advice to the profession, renewals, AHS liability insurance and even some brave new pilot projects – thank you! Please know that you and your contributions to the profession will be missed.

I have felt privileged and honoured to have had the opportunity to work with the ACMDTT in so many capacities. The collaborative work between the ACMDTT and the employers of their members has only enhanced the profession. I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to be part of the collaboration.

Please share your message or advice for our membership.

Always be proud of your contribution to healthcare. We touch every patient at some point in their journey through the health care system and we can have a significant impact. Never stop learning, never stop caring and try to remember every patient is someone’s mother, father, sister, brother or child.

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