Read the introduction already?
You want to become a PACS administrator. The Picture Archive and Communications System (PACS) is the digital solution to storage, transfer and viewing of medical grade imaging. A PACS administrator may also have experience with a Vendor Neutral Archive (VNA) or Imaging Sharing Platform. PACS, VNA and Image Sharing all fall under the category of Imaging Informatics.
You are here because you have a passion for medical imaging and are interested in pursuing a career in the medical imaging arena! The big questions! How to become a PACS Administrator? How to become a Radiology PACS Systems Analyst?
This step by step guide may answer your questions. We’ll take a look at the overall requirements needed to receive your first job offer. Since you may be looking to get your first job in this field, we’re assuming you have no experience as a PACS analyst. In this guide, we’ll show you how to get there.
If you’re someone who is already a healthcare professional, then even better. You’ll find the step by step guide much easier. However, this guide is intended for all audiences.
Consider this the beginning of your PACS Bootcamp.
Let’s dive right in.
- Step 4 – Watch Videos, Webinars
Before we start – Let’s define the Role
PACS Analyst, PACS Administrator, Radiology Systems Administrator? What’s the difference? Which one do I apply to?
Essentially it’s the same role. The video we created below explains the possible differences across each role.
Here is the external link to the description below from the American Board of Imaging Informatics website itself
What is this role anyway and what do they do?
Institutions may use the titles PACS Analyst, PACS Administrator, Radiology Systems Analyst interchangeably. Ultimately it’s the same role with slight differences. This definition may change from site to site.
Someone who manages a PACS on a day to day operations basis. PACS is the Picture Archive and Communication System. Fancy name for the storage repository where diagnostic images are stored and viewed. MRIs or X-RAYs get sent from the modalities (or devices) to the PACS. The PACS Administrator is responsible for ensuring images get sent to the correct patient. They can assist in resolving any errors. For example, a common mistake made by the users is sending an image to the wrong patient jacket or chart within PACS. A PACS admin can assist in getting the images to the correct patient chart.
The PACS admin can be located onsite embedded within the radiology department. His role can be hands on. Whether it’s as easy as bringing a new keyboard to a radiologist, or swap out a faulty video card from the radiologist’s computer. A PACS admin can definitely expect to get dust on his shirt and tie as he squeezes into tight places to exchange hardware.
A PACS admin can also assist in troubleshooting network connectivity issues. They can do this alone or with someone from the networking team. For example, a certain device is no longer able to send to PACS after a repair. The PACS administrator would have to check if any of the details on the device was changed. For example, if the configuration to send images to PACS was lost during the repair.
According to some institutions, the PACS Analyst should have the same basic skills as the Pacs Administrator. Plus more. The PACS analyst role is project based. Instead of only resolving day to day issues, they’ll also be required to provide long terms solutions. These long term solutions come in the form of projects. This includes, upgrading the entire PACS software, installing new modalities, making database changes, upgrading infrastructure, rolling out software and communicating closely with the end users to determine to how meet their needs.
The analyst role can be flexible or fully remote. The role can require the analyst to be at the hospital configuring a new device on a Monday. Then at a cubicle in the IT campus on Tuesday. Alternately working remotely from home Wednesday. Also working from home Saturday night at 10:00PM instead of watching your favorite TV show. Did I mention that? Typically Healthcare IT roles will require off-hours support where you’ll need to work on the system when you have the least amount of users. This is usually during the middle of the night.
Radiology Systems Analyst
Essentially it’s the same as the PACS analyst role. Though in the title this role explicitly defines that it is all-inclusive of ALL radiology systems. This include RIS (where electronic orders of exams are managed), Voice Dictation Systems (a system that uses microphones + software to convert speech to text so a radiologist can talk into the microphone instead of typing up a report), Dose Reporting System (system to track how much radiation was administered to the patient so it can be submitted to governing boards).
Step 1 – Identify Yourself
Once you determine where you fit, then we’re able to figure out what steps you need to take to create your own unique training plan
You have a clinical background. You already have a career in medical imaging. Some examples are ultrasound, x-ray, or MRI technologist.
You have an information technology background. You already have a career in information systems. Some examples are network engineer, systems analyst or application analyst.
You do not have a background in the healthcare or IT industry. You are willing to learn.
Whoever you are …
You’ll need to also be the following 3
You must decide now that this is what you want. Like any other new challenge, obstacles will come in the form of failure. It will come often but you simply must try again until you overcome it. Convince others you can do this. Be persistent. Hardest part is getting your foot in the door. Once you’re in, even with barely a year experience, the opportunities will be endless.
Typically there’s no Bachelors Degree that prepares you specifically for this role. I know because I looked it up. You’ll need hands-on learning, experience, self-learning. You could be an expert on the clinical side but you’d need to learn more Information Systems. You could be a Network Engineer but you’d need to learn more on the Clinical side.
My college professor once said you can tell how truly intelligent a person is by their ability to say “I don’t know” . By admitting, you will be open to learning new things. You must have the ability to take initiative and do your own research.
You can learn something from everyone you meet along your journey, look for the best trait in them and copy it
Here is a video breakdown, we created, of the next steps
Step 2 – Plan
Start with the end in mind
Select a finish date. In fact select a few
Choose a date when you would complete your training
Recommended timeline is 6 months
Choose a date to become certified if you’re eligible
Recommended timeline is 6 months
Choose a date where you would start applying
Start applying in 5 months
Before scrolling down to the next section, mark your calendar
This is one way to guarantee that you meet your goal
Step 3 – Read
The following books are books that I have read in order to prepare myself for the interview questions. I highly recommend these books if you want to stand a chance in the interview.
Please note: The thumbnail links to the books below will direct you to Amazon.com as an affiliate link which in turn supports this site.
Read the book for imaging informatics – We highly recommend that you read the SIIM Practical Imaging Informatics – Foundations and Applications for PACS professionals. In fact, if you were to only read one book, this would be the one. The book contains content for both medical + information systems. It’s an all-in-1 book that specifically geared towards the pacs professional. Each chapter contains practice exams that can help solidify the chapter contents for you. Lastly, the chapters of the book are based on the topics that are covered in the CIIP certification exam. If you’re an X-RAY, CT tech, you’re likely eligible for this test. So it would make sense to read this book on your path to certification as a certified imaging informatics professional.
Read the book for networking. The one I recommend is the Exam Cram CompTIA Network+. The reason why I chose this book is the same as the previous. It’s a book that’s geared towards a specific certification exam. In this case, it’s the CompTIA Network+ certification. As you read, you’ll learn about network communication concepts that are integral in the PACS field. In addition, you’ll be preparing for a certification. If you’re a wiz and you can master this certification, you may get an entry level job as a network engineer. But let’s keep our eyes on the prize. You want to become a PACS administrator.
More About Health Sciences and Information Technology
For now, it’s best to stick to these 3 books to stay focused. At a bare minimum, just read the one Imaging Informatics book. However, for those avid readers, we have additional recommendations. For additional reading recommendations, click here to view our Amazon Affiliate Link Page
PACS Boot Camp provides the service of free course material. Basic concepts of Information Technology, Medical Terminology, Anatomy & Physiology and DICOM are posted in our Free Courses section over time.
The Core Imaging Informatics Topics
PACS Boot Camp also provides a premium study guide that covers all Imaging Informatics topics on a high level summative course. This course can be utilized as a “PACS for dummies” or “DICOM for dummies” to all beginners. Components are broken down into simple English with real world examples. The course is based on the topics selected by imaging informatics professionals as essential criteria to be proficient in the field. Therefore, readers can use this course as self-study material to better understand what specific subjects to master.
Step 4 – Watch
Use Youtube to watch free content about PACS and computer networking.
Subscribe to Beek AE’s channel for more PACS related information. Learn about some of the major concepts including DICOM and workflows. Do you know what DICOM is? If not, check out a high level overview in the video below:
Simply put, DICOM is the standard that allows for the communication of medical images.
For Networking, the ExamCram book might be a little boring to read through by itself. To compliment this book, check out Professor Messer’s Youtube channel. He has a series of training courses organized into youtube playlists. Just go to the channel and look for the CompTIA Network+ Training course. These videos are awesome. There are 101 videos in this specific course but organized into short segments. Don’t have to time to watch youtube videos? No problem, next time you’re driving in your car put this on instead of the radio. Next time you’re doing dishes or the laundry, put this on.
Disclaimer: PACS BOOT CAMP has no affiliation to the Professor Messer Youtube channel.
Understanding the radiology workflow is imperative. If you are a radiologic technologist then you may already understand the workflow. If you’re not then check out the video below by Dr. Marc Kohli. It’s an amazing explanation. Dr. Kohli does a great job at visualizing the radiology workflow.
Disclaimer: PACS Boot Camp has no affiliation to the Dr. Kohli Youtube Channel
Step 5 – Get Certified
Although these are not always required, it’s a big plus to show up at the interview with board certification.
American Board of Imaging Informatics CIIP
The trend for many imaging professionals in the field is to seek ABII certification.
The collaboration between ARRT and SIIM makes the CIIP designation an attractive choice.
See if you’re eligible on the ABII website . Click below to launch an external link to the American Board of Imaging Informatics site.
CompTIA Network +
Networking is a highly useful skill for the PACS professional. This is an integral part of the daily work life. Understanding VPN, TCP Protocol, IP addresses and Ports are a big plus.
Apply online at CompTIA. Click below to launch an external link to the CompTIA site.
Google IT Support Professional Certificate
Google now provides exciting new course certifications on Coursera. The appropriate course for healthcare professionals or any beginner seeking IT knowledge would be the introductory Google IT Support Professional Certificate. The course covers:
These are all essential topics a prospective PACS administrator or PACS analyst must know.
Note that it is free to enroll in the course for 7 days then $39 a month afterwards. According to Coursera, the estimated time to complete the course is 6 months. Readers should take into account their own ability to complete the course on time, and resulting costs before committing.
Step 6 – Practice Exams
An important step in preparing for the CIIP board exam is to take practice exams online. Free quizzes are available here on PACS Boot camp. In addition, a full 100 question practice exam is available for purchase.
If you didn’t do so well on the practice exams then you may need to review what contents to study. The American Board of Imaging Informatics (ABII) test content outline is available in the link below. The post summarizes what to expect on the ABII exam. As a review for the exam, students can also enroll for the Premium IIP Study guide here on PACS Boot Camp. The Premium IIP Study guide expands upon the March 2020 ABII Outline by providing additional context to each sub-topic. Individual topics from the content outline are summarized into short and concise descriptions. This serves as an excellent review for test takers.
Alternatively, you can purchase practice exams from SIIM. SIIM is the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine. The exams are typically bundled with SIIM lectures.
Step 8 – Apply for Jobs
Once you have successfully achieved your certification, you’re ready to apply for jobs. We are working to partner with career sites to help you find your career. Please check back. In the interim, visit our apply page for suggestions to how to search for jobs.
“The majority of what you want will come from the minority of what you do.”
Gary Keller, The ONE Thing
Staying motivated can be tough. Each prospective student has their own set of challenges. It can be difficult to remain on track when it feels like there is a ton of material to learn. Self study requires discipline and drive. PACS Boot Camp recommends books that tell stories of those who persevere through hardship. Since reading is not the most fun thing to do, PACS Boot Camp also interviews successful informatics consultants and healthcare professionals that have paved their own way into their industries.
Available now are two interviews with EPIC consultants that pushed through into their roles despite the constant let downs, failed interviews, lack of formal IT schooling, lack of any medical training.
Listen to their stories. Allow it to mold your mindset. Realize that if they can achieve their dream career with all odds against them… then so can you.
Stay on Track
Check back often as the site is constantly updated. Read our free course modules as they become available. Be creative by finding your own avenues of learning free material, whether that be Youtube, SIIM, Reddit, Quora, or this website. Check out our premium content section. Subscribe to us on Youtube. We’re in this together. We believe in you.