Kathryn Dietmann Bernotavicius, MHA, RVT, Technical Coordinator for the Non-Invasive Vascular Lab at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois, has built a solid career in the health care field on the foundation of her Rush training in vascular ultrasound technology. Not only that, but all 17 of the technologists who work in the vascular lab she runs at Loyola are Rush graduates, too.
"I've hired people from other programs in the past, but Rush grads are far more prepared to jump in and handle the work load we see here. There's a quality to a Rush grad that far exceeds that of students from other places," Bernotavicius says.
After her father suffered a stroke when she was young, Bernotavicius knew she wanted to pursue a career in health care. "I wanted to do something specialized, and the idea that, by doing carotid ultrasound, I could save someone from having a stroke really connected with me," she says.
In 2008, after transferring from Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills, she completed the 20-month Rush University Bachelor of Science in Vascular Ultrasound program. Bernotavicius passed the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) credentialing examinations to become a Registered Vascular Technologist (RVT), then went to work in Loyola University Medical Center's vascular laboratory. She had completed one of her required clinical rotations there during her second year in the Rush program, and just as she started looking for a job, someone in the lab retired.
She was promoted to her present position as a Technical Coordinator in 2012, then received her master's degree in health care administration management in 2017 from St. Francis University in Joliet. She still scans patients every day at her lab, but she currently spends most of her time on administrative duties. She coordinates scheduling for techs and patients, and handles other duties related to staffing. She is also an adjunct faculty member at Rush University.
Rush University's Vascular Ultrasound Technology program is one of only a handful of bachelor’s degree programs like it in the country. "The bachelor's degree definitely adds to the value of the training," says Bernotavicius.
Like Bernotavicius, most instructors in the Rush Vascular Ultrasound program presently work in the field. The program consistently places 92% to 100% of its graduates in jobs right out of school, says Program Director Jacqueline Ortiz, MA, RVT.
The program’s training focuses on developing the skills essential to performing high-quality diagnostic vascular ultrasound examinations throughout the body including the abdomen, brain, neck and extremities. Students learn about vascular anatomy and physiology, hemodynamics, ultrasound physics, and they also have the opportunity to hone the necessary practical skills, working with various types of diagnostic ultrasound equipment, both in the student ultrasound lab and during clinical rotations. The first year of the program is spent in the classroom and labs. During their second year, students go out on four clinical rotations, working with patients at institutions like Loyola or other Chicago-area hospitals. Students are also given the opportunity to complete rotations outside of the Chicagoland area, including Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and the University of Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor, as well as many others, Ortiz says.
"The idea is to become proficient with the different types of vascular examinations," Ortiz says. "We want them to be able to walk into a new job and start scanning right away."
Ultrasound is an effective, noninvasive technology, popular both with physicians and patients, and Bernotavicius says she can attest that Rush University’s vascular ultrasound grads are in high demand.
"There are a lot of jobs out there in the field, and as far as advancement goes, you can potentially move up to becoming a lead tech or a supervisor. I did it," she says