Imagining imaging:

OCCC Student working toward Diagnostic Imaging career

If you think it’s strange to don a set of hospital scrubs just to go sit in a room alone, then you don’t know Donnie. Though he does wear them while putting in hours for his hospital internship, other days, Diagnostic Imaging student Donnie Duncan wears them to sit in a room allotted to him at the Oregon Coast Community College North County Center in Lincoln City. It is in that room that he tackles the virtual part of the program.

Donnie Duncan

Donnie Duncan heads out into a rainy afternoon — and a bright future.

“I believe in dressing for success,” he said. “That’s why I wear scrubs even when I am just taking my online courses.”

Though, generally, online courses can be taken from home, there are a lot of benefits to taking them at the college, so OCCC staff found a space where Duncan has everything he needs to participate in the program, headquartered at Linn-Benton Community College.

“When you use the school system it’s almost guaranteed flawless,” Duncan said. “If anything happens when you are taking tests here, you get the right to re-take a test, which doesn’t happen if you are at home.”

In other words, new millennium versions of “The dog ate my homework,” like “my computer crashed” or “the dog ate my power cord,” won’t wash if you are working from home.

“They require you to have a secondary backup computer,” Duncan said. “That is another benefit from taking the class here. Plus, everyone at OCCC is so supportive of the students – they said they would always have a place for us, no matter what.”

It also helps that the College is one of relatively few institutions in Lincoln County that is connected to the Internet via fiber optic cable, yielding reliable upload and download speeds of around 100 megabits per second – more than enough speed to make videoconferencing reliable and clear.


Growth market

Providing a room is just one part of the college’s policy of appropriate growth, which includes taking advantage of available partnerships.

“It’s really important to us that we are not limiting what we have available for our local students just because we are a small school,” said OCCC Academic Advisor Colleen Doherty.

“That’s why we partner with other schools. We also have a partnership for Occupational Therapy with Linn-Benton. We‘re just really glad to have the opportunity for students to be able to take advantage of a wide variety of fields. But these partner schools do expect us to have the technology and space available.”

Because the program requires serving his internship at the Linn-Benton Diagnostic Imaging department, Duncan still has a significant amount of driving to do, but he says that’s just par for the course.

“The program is so intense that you have to have an app to stay on top of it,” he said. “I stopped counting at 127 aspects you have to pass before even getting started. But it’s worth it because it’s a highly rated program. It’s also the cheapest program out there for what you get. Plus, it’s a degree program; I’ll be graduating with an Associate Degree in Applied Science.”

Every summer there is an opportunity for two people to enter the 24-month Diagnostic Imaging program through Oregon Coast Community College.

“Just like the nursing program, the DI program is very intensive because of the number of prerequisites that are required,” Doherty said. “But students can get all their prerequisites here, which is another selling point.” And the job availability in Oregon, similar to nursing, is also quite high.

“The field of diagnostic imaging is expected have an over 10 percent increase in job availability in the next decade,” Doherty said. “And salaries start at $58,000-$66,000, which is good for Oregon. You can start out as a radiation technology person, but you can also specialize depending on your particular areas of interest.”


A mature attitude

Another part of Duncan’s willingness to buckle down comes from the fact that he is not an, ahem, young student.

“I’ve been around a little longer than most people in this program,” he said. “So, I think it’s easier for me to treat it with seriousness since I’ve done other things and am very sure that this is the path I want to take now.”

Doherty agrees that, while OCCC students of all ages can apply for the program, Duncan’s maturity has been valuable in the program.

“As a returning adult student, I have really appreciated Donnie’s fortitude, his motivation to make this program happen for him, and his stick-to-it-iveness,” Doherty said. “He was very forthright in what he wanted to do.”

Originally from Appalachia, Duncan lived in Nevada for a while and worked in the electrical field. When his wife was offered a job in Oregon, he was ready for the move – in part because it reminded him of Appalachia. He has never regretted the move, and now has certainty about his choices of location and vocation.

“Ultimately I’d like to work as a diagnostic technician for Samaritan,” he said. “I think they are a prime example of a good-hearted company.”


A clear picture of the future

The final phase of the program is called an “externship,” which even distance students complete at a local hospital.

“I already know where I’m going to do my externship because they only allot a seat in the program when they have one available,” Duncan said. “They’ve scheduled me to go to Newport to work in a one-year externship as a technologist, which I’m very excited about.”

Though Duncan is currently the only OCCC student in the program, Doherty is optimistic that the program will grow.

“Distance education has really come a long way, but it’s still hard to be the only student in a program,” she said. “What Donnie and the staff at the North County Center have done to create this connected classroom has worked very well, and will help pave the way for future students. And this is one of those career paths that offer job security. Isn’t that what all students want?”

To find out more about the Linn-Benton Diagnostic Imaging Program, including the scope of the pre-requisite work required prior to admission, and how you can participate as a student here at Oregon Coast Community College in Newport or Lincoln City, call Vickie Jones-Briggs at 541-867-8548 to schedule an appointment with Linda Mollino, Director of Career and Technical Education (CTE) Programs & Health and Human Services Careers. Or, schedule a free advising appointment with Colleen Doherty by clicking here.  

Oregon Coast Community College has served the communities of Lincoln County for 31 years. The College has locations in Waldport, Newport and Lincoln City and offers a growing selection of degrees and certificates, including a new Early Childhood Education certificate program and a new teaching degree program, built in partnership with Western Oregon University and the Lincoln County School District. Learn more by calling 541-867-8501.

  • Written for OCCC by Gretchen Ammerman