Navigating COVID-Related Safety Challenges in The MR Suite


Applied Radiology Publisher Kieran Anderson recently spoke with Christine Harris, RT, one of the newest members of the journal’s editorial advisory board. Ms. Harris is Magnetic Resonance Safety Officer and the Manager of MRI operations in the Division of Diagnostic Imaging and Radiology at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, DC. This article is based on that conversation.


Along with its effects on the overall US economy, the COVID-19 pandemic has made an especially hard impact on all sectors of healthcare, including radiology. COVID-19 has presented radiologists and technologists with a unique set of challenges to take precautions against transmission of the disease while following already-stringent safety protocols. This is particularly true in the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) suite.

“It’s a lot of stress for us as professionals. We’re working on changing PPE, what we wear, what we don't wear, new policies, new procedures. We're really stressed out, so the support we can give each other in our healthcare community is key for all of us,” says Christine Harris, RT, a magnetic resonance safety officer and manager of MRI operations at Children's National Hospital in Washington, DC.

Harris said she and her team strive to keep MRI safety their primary focus every day, even as they adjust to new procedures and protocols forced by the pandemic.

Given the risks imposed by the strong magnetic field, all MRI scans have always required careful attention to all items entering the scanner room, but now this vigilance extends to personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks and shields, goggles, and even protective clothing, all of which may include metallic parts such as staples, which pose significant safety concerns and cause artifacts on images.

Harris’s department stepped up communication between the MRI suite and other areas of the hospital to ensure safety for everyone. The MRI department currently requires visiting staff to replace their standard PPE with MR-compatible PPE that doesn’t include any metal parts. To streamline this process, MR-compatible PPE are available for visitors to change into upon entering the suite.

“We try to make sure we have more communication. [Staff are] worried about taking care of patients and we have to worry about both patients and MR safety. So we have our own PPE supply for our visitors,” she explains.

Ms. Harris is also invested in determining how technology can help her department partner more effectively with physicians and radiologists. “We want to make sure that we're supporting them and we have the right guidance from them, so that we keep giving the best care to our patients.”

For her, that means taking a holistic approach to MRI safety. “Being supportive of our staff as if they were our family through this stressful time is the best thing,” she reiterates. “As 2021 comes in, we’ll still be there for each other.”

Education through virtual meetings

A significant pillar of RT education consists of meetings such as the recent all-virtual RSNA 2020, which offered a mix of pre-recorded and live educational content. While Harris says she missed the personal connections of an in-person event, she said she appreciated the on-demand content.

“I think they’re so great because they give us the content that we want. But …  I can't walk down the hallway and see a friend that I haven't seen in a couple of years. I see her name, but I don't have the opportunity to stop and say hi. It's just that personal touch that's missing,” she says.

A First for Applied Radiology

Ms. Harris is the first Radiologic Technologist to join Editorial Advisory Board of Applied Radiology, which she says has helped her and her fellow technologists to keep pace with industry developments around the world – a custom she expects the publication to continue as it begins its next 50 years serving the radiology community.

“All that knowledge has helped me be better in my profession. And I think the people who come up behind me can also utilize Applied Radiology to be stronger in their profession,” she says, noting that a key element for RTs is understanding how to capture clinically relevant images for radiologists, while caring for patients through the process.

“I hope future technologists use this journal to help them stay abreast of what the radiologist wants and how we can best support them,” Ms. Harris concluded.

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Navigating COVID-Related Safety Challenges in The MR Suite.  Appl Radiol. 

By McKenna Bryant| January 21, 2021

About the Author

McKenna Bryant

McKenna Bryant

McKenna Bryant is a freelance healthcare writer based in Nashotah, WI.

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