Kelly Bybee reflects on radiology advancements over her four-decade career

Posted on May 2024

Kelly Bybee received a service award from UW Health for her important contributions over her extensive career.

UW Health Radiology Department’s MRI clinical program coordinator, Kelly Bybee, BSN, CRN, retired after 39 years of nursing. She spent 29 years at UW Health, 21 years of which were with the department. 

Over her career, Bybee has seen the department and the field of radiology rapidly advance. “In 2003, I was one of six nurses who rotated through all modalities of radiology. UW Hospital had two interventional rooms, a neuroradiology suite, 2 CT scanners, and a 2-bed prep area. The hospital also had 2 MRI scanners and a third at the Waisman Center. No matter what the weather, rain, hail, or snowstorms, RN staff ran to Waisman to insert IVs.” Now, the department has over 60 nurses on staff and seven MRI scanners in the hospital. 

“We’ve also become very efficient processing medical information. In the early part of my career, medical records were on paper. If MRI needed to identify an implant, Health Information would deliver stacks of paper charts, two feet high, twice a day. Nursing staff would pour through these charts to find one little sticker identifying an implant. It took hours and required all hands-on deck! Nurses assigned to other modalities would assist with this detective work once cases were finished in their work area. Electronic Medical Records have taken us to the point where we can prepare for our patients faster than we can get them scheduled.” 

Radiology is a space that requires nurses to have a wide body of knowledge so they can provide competent care in a department driven by procedures and technology. Bybee’s contributions have made a lasting impact throughout the department. The original nurses of radiology did not have an orientation to the department. They learned through experience. Bybee was key in developing the standards of radiology nursing for this organization. Following the core curriculum developed by the Association for Radiologic and Imaging Nursing, she also developed an orientation for nurses new to radiology. She is a member of the MRI Safety Committee and helped develop the MRI safety screen at UW Health. 

“I joined radiology at a time when information and technology were exploding. Many of our physicians were key in this development. They developed new procedures that could diagnose and/or treat certain diseases. These radiologists shared their information with our technologists and the nursing team which allowed us to impact patient care and outcomes.”  

Bybee has seen her fair share of, and taken part in, many medical breakthroughs. She noted that perhaps her most significant legacy is that she worked closely with Scott Reeder, MD, PhD; Karl Vigen, PhD; Aaron Field, MD, PhD; Frank Korosec, PhD; Kurt Hoffmayer, MD, Shannon Schauff, RN and Tom McKinlay, RT to develop the “Initial Guidelines for MRI Conditional Pacemakers and/or Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillators.” 

“In May 2013, when the team scanned the first MRI conditional pacemaker, we were anxious! Scanning pacemakers went against the core of everything we had learned about MR Safety.”  Now, it’s a common procedure for the department. For the year 2024, we will scan around 750 MRI Conditional and Legacy Pacemakers and/or Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillators. 

Given her long-lasting and impressive contributions, it may be hard to imagine that Bybee didn’t plan to pursue a career in radiology nursing. She initially began in Critical Care, where she worked for 18 years. Her transition to radiology took place by chance when she joined the team via a per-diem contract as the department was growing and needed more nursing personnel. “I didn’t choose radiology, radiology chose me. I fell in love with it the first week I was here. Radiology nursing requires us to multitask, think critically, manage complex patients, and participate in procedures. As an MRI coordinator, I have specialized within radiology nursing.” 

In her retirement, Bybee is looking forward to spending time with her grandson, auditing a course or two, and spending time pursuing her hobbies of gardening, paper crafting, and biking. She is also open to new opportunities. “Much like my career. I’m not planning anything big; I’ll just see where life takes me.” 


Kelly Bybee celebrated her upcoming retirement with coworkers, who surprised her with a cake.