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The site visitor's role in accreditation.

Two advantages associated with specialized or programmatic accreditation are the national educational standards developed by a consensus of professionals in the field and the peer-review site visits that occur during the initial and continuing accreditation process. Without the participation of our volunteer site visitors, the JRCERT programmatic accreditation process would lose credibility and respect.

The site visitor has the most maligned role in the accreditation process, but I guarantee that those who protest the loudest have never had to walk a mile in the site visitor's shoes. I am fortunate to have a broad perspective on site visitor performance, since I was a site visitor and team chairman more than 20 times before I joined the JRCERT Board of Directors. In addition, I have been a program director during five site visits to my own programs at three different institutions, including a hospital-based program, an associate degree program and a baccalaureate program. And finally, as a member of the JRCERT Board for the past 5 years, I have been actively involved in the training of site visitors, as well as the appointment, reappointment and termination of site visitors from the perspective of the accrediting agency.

In this column, I'd like to introduce you to the qualifications and talents of the individuals who constitute the JRCERT roster of site visitors, as well as the sacrifices they make to serve the radiologic science profession.

How Are Site Visitors Selected?

Site visitors for the JRCERT are radiographers and radiation therapists credentialed by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists or physicians certified by the American Board of Radiology in diagnostic radiology or radiation oncology. The site visitor must have appropriate, current professional experience, which includes at least 3 years of full-time involvement with a JRCERT-accredited educational program as a program director, administrative technologist, didactic instructor, medical advisor or clinical instructor/coordinator/supervisor. A prospective candidate must attend a JRCERT Site Visitor Workshop, complete an application for site visitor appointment and submit a current curriculum vitae. In addition, the potential site visitor must document evidence to support the following entry-level competencies:

* Knowledge of the scope of professional education available in the radiologic sciences.

* Knowledge and understanding of the Standards for an Accredited Educational Program in Radiologic Sciences.

* Ability to make a positive contribution to the accreditation process, as evidenced by appropriate professional experience.

The application is reviewed by the JRCERT staff, and if the individual satisfactorily meets all the criteria, he or she is appointed as an apprentice site visitor.

Each apprentice is assigned to a site visitor team with an experienced team chairman and team member. Only after active participation in at least three site visits at this level, along with satisfactory performance evaluations and JRCERT staff recommendation, is the apprentice considered by the board of directors for appointment as a team member.

After performing all duties satisfactorily at the team member level and participating in a JRCERT Site Visitor Workshop every 3 years, the team member may be considered by the board of directors for appointment as a team chairman. To be eligible for reappointment as a team chairman, the individual must continue to meet all entry-level criteria, attend a JRCERT Site Visitor Workshop every 3 years and receive satisfactory performance evaluations.

And believe it or not, all of this work is performed on a volunteer basis!

Are Site Visitors Appointed for Life?

A site visitor serves at the pleasure of the JRCERT Board of Directors. He or she must be reappointed each year and may be terminated by the board for cause at any time. A site visitor also may be denied reappointment for any of the following reasons:

* Failure to meet entry-level criteria.

* Failure to participate in a JRCERT Site Visitor Workshop every 3 years.

* Unsatisfactory performance evaluations.

* A verified complaint regarding conduct.

* Poor preparation for the site visit.

* Poor quality of reports.

* Noncompliance with JRCERT procedures.

At its fall meeting, the JRCERT Board of Directors analyzes data provided by the staff on each site visitor. We look at the required criteria to serve as a JRCERT site visitor, verify appropriate attendance at a Site Visitor Workshop, consider the number of times the site visitor has turned down a request to perform a site visit, and review the performance evaluations submitted by the program director, institutional administrator and other team members. This is a blind review process in which individuals are identified only by a number rather than a name, and each site reviewer's number is known only to staff who are involved in the appointment/reappointment process. The current JRCERT Board has gone to great lengths to improve this evaluation process, and we continue to seek ways to ensure the quality of the peer-review process and the qualifications of all site visitors.

Why Are Some Site Visitors Reappointed Even If They Are Not Doing a Good Job?

The JRCERT knows that the conduct, preparation and performance of its site visitors is one area of the accreditation process that needs improvement. To make the necessary changes, the JRCERT needs help from program directors, institutional administrators and other site visitors, all of whom are responsible for completing performance evaluations on individual site visitors. Failure to accurately assess the performance of each team member may result in the continued re-appointment of unsatisfactory site visitors.

The JRCERT Board depends on data provided in the official performance evaluation. The board cannot act on hearsay or verbal comments about site visitors unless they are backed up by honest evaluations or written complaints that can be verified.

Do Site Visitors Got Paid by the Hour?

Site visitors are not paid at all! They are reimbursed for reasonable travel, lodging and meal expenses incurred during the site visit, but receive no other compensation. Reimbursement occurs only after the team has submitted its report of findings from the site visit. Expenditures for items such as alcoholic beverages, movies and entertainment are not reimbursable.

What Do Site Visitors Do?

Once a site visit team is assigned by the JRCERT and accepted by the educational program, accreditation materials are mailed to each team member prior to the on-site visit. Any program may reject a site visitor assigned by the JRCERT without giving a reason. The site visit team usually has 2 to 4 weeks of preparation time prior to the on-site visit. During this period, each team member reviews the self-study submitted by the program, using the JRCERT Planning Guide to identify any areas of the Standards that the program has not satisfactorily addressed. The team chairman then contacts the program director and establishes an agenda for the on-site visit.

The team chairman and team member meet, sometimes for the first time, the night before the site visit to discuss the results of the self-study review and identify areas where additional documentation or explanation is necessary. The site visit itself usually takes 1 to 2 days, requiring long hours for the team during the on-site visit followed by team meetings in the evening to compare results and prepare for the exit summation. Once the team visit is complete, the chairman is responsible for completing the Site Visit Report of Findings with the team member and submitting the final report and expense voucher to the JRCERT. Now, the site visitors' job is complete.

Does the Process Fail at Times?

Much as we would like it to be, there are a number of reasons why the peer-review system is not perfect. Perhaps the JRCERT is not providing adequate initial training and/or continuing training for its site visitors. A mediocre site visit may be forgotten when the accreditation award meets or exceeds the expectations of the program. Sometimes, I wonder if programs fear that negative evaluations of the site visit team will somehow adversely affect the accreditation decision by the JRCERT Board of Directors, the end result being that program officials do not evaluate the team honestly.

Unfortunately, when a site visitor's performance is less than satisfactory, many program officials do not accurately reflect the poor performance on the evaluation forms. On behalf of the JRCERT Board of Directors, I can assure you that your evaluation of the site visitor in no way affects the accreditation decision for your program. As we continue to improve this whole process, we have hired an outside agency to receive the evaluation forms, tabulate the results and forward them to the JRCERT Board of Directors, which is responsible for the appointment and reappointment of all site visitors. We hope this change helps improve the process.

Good site visitors -- and the profession is fortunate to have a large number of them -- also are interested in removing the few site visitors who are not doing a good job. It is unfortunate that all site visitors sometimes are maligned for the mistakes of a few. Justified complaints are welcomed, and constructive criticism of site visitor performance is beneficial to all when it is delivered to the appropriate individuals for the purpose of improving the accreditation process in the radiologic sciences.

The JRCERT is extremely proud of the job its site visitors do. For every negative comment we receive, we hear hundreds of positive comments.

Without this dedicated team of volunteer professionals, the radiologic sciences would have no peer-review process. Where else can you find people who work extremely hard for the profession without pay, without recognition and sometimes without the gratitude or thanks of the very individuals whom they so willingly serve? These unsung heroes of the accreditation process are ordinary people who do an extraordinary job. I thank every JRCERT site visitor on behalf of the 200,000 professionals in this field, all of whom benefit from the results of a job well done!

Nadia Bugg, Ph.D., R. T (R), is a member of the Board of Directors of the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology. Questions about this column may be sent to the JRCERT Executive Office at 20 N. Wacker Drive, Suite 900, Chicago, IL 60606-2901.
COPYRIGHT 1997 American Society of Radiologic Technologists
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Title Annotation:JRCERT Update
Author:Bugg, Nadia
Publication:Radiologic Technology
Date:Nov 1, 1997
Words:1662
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