Radiologic Technologist

Radiologic Technologist

A career as a Radiologic Technologist requires you to have strong technical skills as well as the ability to relate well with people who may be coming into the radiology department in pain or with anxiety about the procedure. Here is some radiology career information:

Description of health care career information and the daily work:

What is the first thing that you want to do when you fall off a ladder and think that you may have broken a bone? Get an x-ray to see if your injury resulted in a break, a fracture or just a very bad bruise. A career in medical imaging as a Radiologic Technologist (also known as Rad Techs or Radiographers) is rewarding and challenging. You must be able to communicate with the patient and position the patient in a way that will allow you to take an accurate image of the area to be diagnosed. Radiologic Technologists take x-rays of the human body so that radiologist may diagnose medical abnormalities and conditions.

Radiologic Technologists produce x-ray films of a part of the body to diagnose diseases and injury. Images can be taken of virtually any part of the body. Rad Techs prepare the patient by explaining the procedure in a way that the patient can understand, removing any articles on the patient that would obstruct the x-ray (jewelry), positioning the patient to get an optimum picture of the area and adjusting the x-ray equipment at the correct angle and height over the patient’s body. The Rad Tech reduces the risk of exposure by using lead shields surrounding the area to be exposed. The image is then taken and developed. The Rad Tech records the patient information into the hospital computer system and passes the x ray to the radiologist. Radiologic Technologists do not interpret the x-ray for the patient. This is the job of the Radiologist, a medical doctor specially trained in reading x-rays.

Simple x-rays can be taken to diagnose bones or tissue. In the case where body organs, certain tissue or functions need to be examined, the Radiologic Technologist instructs the patient to take a “contrast” material that will highlight the area to be x-rayed.

Choosing a career in medical imaging provides many opportunities to specialize in the field. You could choose to work as a Radiologic Technologist in any of the following modalities within radiography. Angiography is used to determine narrow, enlarged or blocked blood vessels, especially as they relate to the heart and brain functions. Bone densitometry is used to measure bone density and diagnose conditions such as osteoporosis. Computed Tomography (CT scan) is used to obtain cross-sectional images of the body (or slices) which are useful in diagnosing head injuries and digestive dysfunction. Diagnostic Medical Sonography or ultrasound is used to produce images of organs and systems inside of the body such as the size and condition of a fetus. Mammography is used to detect lumps or abnormalities in the breast. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) uses radiofrequency waves and magnetic forces to take images of organs and tissues to diagnose disease and abnormalities. Nuclear Medicine uses radioactive material in the form of “tracers” to not only to diagnose, but in some cases to treat disease. Radiation Therapy is used to treat cancer by destroying cancer cells so that they don’t reproduce. Some specialties such as mammography and radiation therapy require advanced training and certification to work in these areas.

You should have physical stamina if you are considering a career as a Radiologic Technologist. You will be on your feet for long periods of time while positioning and turning patients frequently. You may also have to lift and move disabled patients. You may be exposed to radiation in this profession, but the risks are greatly minimized with the use of lead aprons and other shielding devices. You will also wear a badge that constantly monitors the amount of radiation that you receive and detailed records are kept of your cumulative exposure during your career.

Most Radiologic Technologists work in the radiology department of a hospital, but they can also specialize in the emergency room or take x-rays at the patient bedsides. Radiologic technologists work in physician offices, diagnostic imaging centers, community health centers and mobile vans that house diagnostic equipment.

Education, Requirements, Licensure/Certification

Radiologic Technologists must complete a two year degree to prepare for this profession. A four year Bachelor of Science degree typically has a concentration in Nuclear Medicine. A Bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in Radiology is advisable for those who want to move into a supervisory or managerial level or for those who wish to go onto a teaching track after working in the field. RT courses include: anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, medical imaging, radiation physics, radiobiology and pathology.

Certificate programs in specific modalities such as MRI or CT (usually one year in length) are offered for those already working in the field of radiology or a related medical field such as Nurses or EMTs who want to specialize in one area.

The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) awards a certification for individuals who have met all of the eligibility requirements necessary to take and pass the national examination. A person becomes registered as a radiologic technologist upon annual renewal of their ARRT certificate. Not all employers require certification through the ARRT, but new techs are strongly encouraged to become certified and registered. The State Department of Public Health Radiation Control Board is normally the licensing agent for Radiologic Technologists.

If you are interested in becoming a Radiologic Technologist, you should have a strong high school background in mathematics and science, particularly in physics, chemistry and biology and anatomy.

Wage/Salary:

The full time median annual earnings for Radiologic Technologists in 2002 was $38,970 nationally. In  2005, the average hourly range was $19.18 – $30.01.

Career Path and/or opportunities for growth:

With experience, Rad Techs can specialize in a variety of different modalities, which increase their pay scale (see section on description of daily work for detailed modalities.) Experienced technologists may also be promoted to a supervisor, Chief Radiologic Technologist and department director or administrator. There are growth opportunities in academia for teaching or research and in the business sector as a sales rep for radiology equipment or to instruct others in how to use the equipment.

The job outlook for Radiologic Technologists is strong. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for rad techs is expected to grow faster than average due to the aging population’s demand for diagnostic imaging and the rapid changes in imaging technology.

Professional Associations:

American Registry of Radiologic Technologists
www.arrt.org

American Society of Radiologic Technologists
www.asrt.org

Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology
www.jrcert.org