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Graduate Success Spotlight on Mandi Spry, RDCS

Mandi Spry has always been a leader in whatever field she has found herself working. In 2007, having been a manager at Claire’s for 4 years and an assistant manager at AT&T wireless for 10 years, Mandi had developed the leadership skills necessary to move even higher in the corporate world, yet she lacked the desire to stay in a profits and sales focused industry. Mandi had long had an interest in medicine, and upon learning of a coworker who was training to be an ultrasound tech in a relatively short program, decided to take the plunge and enrolled in the cardiac sonography program at the Ontario Campus of West Coast Ultrasound Institute. She was proud to be starting school again at a time when her son was just entering kindergarten, as they could both begin their new educational journeys together.

In order to balance the new load of work, school, and family, Mandi stepped down from her management position at AT&T into a sales position with shorter hours. She hit the ground running at WCUI, and excelled from the moment she stepped on campus. She enjoyed the classes she had with Dr. Emad, as he made them fun and engaging, and took the time to know everyone on a personal level. She also learned much about the art of ultrasound from her time with Dr. Baha, who always put his heart in his teaching and cared deeply for his students, often arranging memorable potluck celebrations for them. Overall, she felt very prepared for the clinical world thanks to her education and training at WCUI.

Mandi graduated with a 4.0 GPA in the summer of 2008, and was proud to become the first student ever to do an externship at Redlands Community Hospital. She represented herself and WCUI very well, soaking up as much skills and learning that she could, and being quick to offer help with any task, no matter how big or small. She treated her externship like a 3 month job interview, and left a great impression on the techs and the hospital staff. Upon finishing her externship, Mandi kept her skills sharp by working as a lab assistant at WCUI and sharing her knowledge with students 6 days a week. A year later, she got her foot into the door at Riverside Community Hospital by becoming hired as a per diem EKG tech, and taking on as many shifts as possible. In a matter of months, she moved into a per-diem echocardiographer position, before a full time position eventually opened up and allowed her to achieve her goal of devoting all of her time to scanning, and becoming a top notch sonographer. Her ample management experience paid off in this position, as she was often able to jump in and do management level tasks such as scheduling and volume tracking. Eventually, by way of a shoulder injury and a successful jump into clinical software training and implementation, Mandi was offered a supervisor position, before ultimately landing her current position as Non-Invasive Cardiology Manager in charge of supervising a staff of 15 clinicians.

Today, Mandi manages her staff with a hands-on, open-door attitude, and never hesitates to jump in on a scan or EKG and do whatever is necessary to keep her department running smoothly. She is demanding of her staff and department, pushing them to become more efficient, and even spearheading a successful movement to incorporate the use of contrast in certain echo studies where the quality of the images can be greatly enhanced to the benefit of the doctor and patient. Her ultimate goal is to help get the hospital ICAEL accredited, which would put the hospital in a higher echelon of standards, patient care, and full protocol adherence. And judging by her track record of hard work and success that she first demonstrated in retail and at WCUI, she will have no problem achieving such a lofty goal. See below for the full interview.

1.  What got you interested in ultrasound?  Was there a moment when something “clicked” and you knew you wanted to be a sonographer?

I had worked in retail for 14 years as a manager - Claire’s for 4 years and AT&T wireless for 10 years as assistant manager. One of my coworkers was training to be an ultrasound tech, and I had long thought about moving into the medical field, in a way that the transition would not take too long. My son was starting kindergarten at the same time that I started WCUI, so I liked that. I knew I wanted to specialize in the heart and didn’t want to scan pregnancies. So, I stepped down as assistant manager at AT&T to a sales position and cut back my hours. I started at WCUI in 2007, attending morning class, and working nights. In 2008, I quit my job before starting my externship at Redlands Community Hospital. I was the first extern that they had ever taken. I am proud to say I graduated with a 4.0 in echo. I meant business and didn’t mess around during my time at WCUI.

2.  What have you accomplished in ultrasound since graduating from WCUI in April?

WCUI offered for me a position as lab assistant. I worked at the school 6 days a week doing labs for a year before applying for and accepting a position as a per diem EKG tech at Riverside Community Hospital in July of 2009. The person that hired me said that I could move up to doing other tasks too. In the meantime, I cut back to just working night classes at WCUI, so I ended up working 2 jobs for about 4 months before moving into a per diem echo role for about 3-4 months. After that, a full time echo position came open. I accepted it, and put my management to good use as well, as I was able to help with schedules and do whatever I had to do to get hours. I did a lot of data entry for data registries and helped with projects in excel like tracking echo volumes and numbers for the departments.

I worked as a full time echo tech for two years. In the meantime, the hospital got a new echo reporting system. My management skills allowed me to be the lead on the project for the software roll-out. Soon, a corporate trainer came out to train me, and then I was training the echo staff and doctors on how to use the software. Data Management System (DMS) is the name of the echo reporting system. Basically, I showed the doctors the basics and got their feedback so that when I would do conference calls with the builder of the system, I could tell them what changes in the software to make.

3.  What obstacles did you have to overcome to get to where you are today in a position of success?

I suffered a shoulder injury scanning a patient and had to go on modified duty because I couldn’t scan. I worked with the manager to do paperwork and was able to focus on the software training. I got healthy and went back to scanning. In 2012, a supervisor position opened up, and thinking of my shoulder injury I decided to go back into management. I became a supervisor for a year, and then the Non-Invasive Cardiology Manager, one of 3 managers under the Director of the Heart Care Institute. I manage the EKG, echo, and cardiac rehab staff. Cardiac rehab is interesting because it is for patients who have had open heart surgery or have stents, so they need counseling and exercise techniques. The department is run by nurses, so that can be a challenge for me because I am working with nurses who have more extensive clinical training than me. In all, I have 15 employees under me. Everyone gets along well. I am very open with my staff, and maintain good communication and an open door policy with them. I will also get right in the middle of things, sometimes helping with a TEE (transesophageal echocardiogram) in the cath lab or doing an EKG if needed. Also, I like to reward my staff for going the extra mile, and I recognize birthdays and anniversaries. My staff is very willing to help each other out and cover for each other.

4.  Who are the role models in your life and how have they inspired you and helped you become successful? 

My first manager at Claire’s…She had a great work ethic and she inspired me to be self-motivated.

5.  Tell me about some of memorable patients that you have cared for.

We had a patient where I had found mitral valve vegetation and the patient had no idea. The patient had to have valve replacement surgery. I continually checked on her after the finding and the surgery, and the patient was grateful and thanked me for saving her life. It was such a rewarding experience. Sometimes I miss that direct patient interaction that I used to have with scanning all of the time.

6.  What advice would you give a student who is just starting out in ultrasound school?

Make the most out of it. Do your best. Make it your career and take it seriously. Treat externship like a 3 month job interview. Do anything possible to get your foot in the door. I have taken 4 externs now from WCUI. I recently hired 2 students from WCUI and two other students that I used to teach in the lab.

7.  What do you like to do when you aren’t working?

I enjoy crafting, scrapbooking, party planning…even decorating the bulletin boards at work and making awards for staff. I have one son that is now 12, named Adam, who is about to start 8th grade. I love spending time with him as well as my husband - especially at our second home in Lake Havasu!

8.  What is one of your favorite memories from your time here at WCUI?

I had Dr. Baja for most of my classes and Dr. Emad for my intro classes. I felt very prepared for clinical work after having them as instructors. Dr. Emad made his classes fun and comfortable, even making the extra effort to know everyone on a personal level. He showed interest in my son and asked about him years later by name. I was impressed! Dr. Baha is a great teacher who puts his heart into it, and really cares about the students. I saw both instructors at the last PAC (Program Advisory Committee) meeting, and had fun reminiscing about my time at WCUI and giving my own suggestions for the school, including starting an EKG externship program.

9.  Do you miss being a full time echo tech? 

Sometimes I miss the direct patient interaction that I had as well as the long talks I could have with patients while I scanned them.

10.  What makes you unique?

I don’t know if it makes me unique but the thing I am most proud of is starting the Definity project for contrast entirely on my own. I met with pharmaceutical reps, helped host pharmacy dinners with doctors and reps, and convinced staff how important it was to reduce the percentage of echo studies that doctors deemed “technically difficult”. We started using Definity contrast in January 2015, and were able to find a lot more pathology and get a better reading of many echo studies, which saves patients from possibly having to have additional tests done. We went from having about 40% technically difficult echoes to using contrast to get the percentage down significantly. I also assisted in training the techs and nurses in the administration of the contrast.

11.   What goals do you have for yourself in the field of ultrasound?

My ultimate goal is to get our echo department ICAEL accredited. This accreditation holds us to higher standards, is great for patient care, and makes staff stay true to following entire protocols and not skipping any steps. Overall, patient outcomes become better, and that is something we are always striving to accomplish.

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