From the outside looking in, it may look like Radiologic Technologist Robert Schroeder and his fellow caregivers have a straightforward job — creating high-quality X-ray images for physicians and their patients. But just like those X-ray images show, there’s a lot more under the surface. You just need the right tools to find what you’re looking for.
Some of the tools of the trade include curiosity, kindness and adaptability. “We never know what kind of a day we’re going to have until we leave,” explained Robert.
Perhaps it’s the ability and desire to learn and experience something new each day that has given Robert the drive to get to where he is. On July 1, 2023, Robert celebrated his 45-year anniversary working in medical imaging. An accomplishment like that doesn’t happen by chance.
“I’ve had various roles from staff technologist working nights to the Director of Medical Imaging Services. I still take X-rays, but I’m also certified to perform a CT scan,” said Robert, who is also the clinical preceptor for the Mitchell Technical College radiology students who rotate through Rapid City Clinic, Flormann Street.
“He’s an amazing teacher, he knows how to break things down for each individual so that they learn what they need to, which helps them become better caregivers,” said Julie Rueppel, Radiologic Technologist.
Julie has known and worked with Robert for 24 years. Both have seen their share of change, progress and growth, within their own roles and the industry as a whole. She’s adamant that through everything she’s seen, one thing has been consistent: Robert’s role as a mentor and teacher.
“He has taught me patience with our students — to slow down and make sure they understand what we’re trying to teach them. Because ultimately, we want the students to stay here and work at Monument Health.”
Not only is Robert inspiring new X-ray techs as they begin their careers, he’s also raising a member of the next generation of caregivers as well.
“My son is finishing his fellowship training at Mayo Clinic as a Neuroradiologist,” he said. “Next year he will move back home and work at Dakota Radiology. I'm getting close to retiring, but I told him I would wait until he gets started so perhaps he will be reading my images to care for his patients.”
Robert knows his career had an impact on the path his son chose. His ability to inspire others in this field means he can relax in his retirement, knowing there will be qualified and passionate caregivers to take over.
“I have been involved in the education of several technologists that are currently working for Monument Health.” Robert noted. “In fact, my current supervisor is actually a former student of mine.”
A Living History
“When I went through my training, I was taught how to hand-develop the X-ray images,” Robert said.
He’s witnessed, firsthand, the transition from film images to automatic processors and now to the digital imaging used today.
“The nice thing for a rad tech, and the patient, is that you can see the images right away. You don’t have to process them,” Robert explained. “You know right away if you need to repeat an image, so the patient doesn't have to wait around to know if the images are ok or if you need to retake something.”
The future’s so bright, you need to wear X-ray glasses
After 32 years working at Monument Health, Robert may be thinking about retirement, but there’s still more he wants to do. Specifically, he wants to continue inspiring, educating and training the students that will take his place.
“This is a very interesting career path. It’s what you make of it, and it's totally up to you if you want to advance in the profession, because there are plenty of opportunities,” Robert said. “I tell my students, ‘when you’re done and you take your boards for general radiology, don't stop progressing.’ I encourage them to take the CT Registry, or learn ultrasound, whatever interests them. I really encourage them to get another advanced specialty so they can move into additional roles.”
Robert, Julie and their team of X-ray techs are happy to tell you the importance of their roles, because at the end of the day, they know the most important thing is that they’re helping to care for patients.
“We do so much more than push a button on an X-ray device,” Julie said. “We really drive patient care by helping the patients feel comfortable in whatever exam we’re doing. We help them understand the process of taking the X-ray.”
Written by Stephany Chalberg
Photos by Bob Slocum