What Do Radiologic Technologists Do?
Those interested in a career in healthcare imaging often ask, what do Radiologic Technologists do? The answer is that these professionals are tasked with performing diagnostic imaging examinations to produce pictures of the inside of the body. These images are then used by the patient’s primary or specialty care provider to help draw medical conclusions and come to diagnoses.
The first step in interpreting what exactly a Radiologic Technologist does involves understanding the equipment and machinery used during the imaging process. This translates to a Radiologic Technologist knowing how to operate and maneuver a transducer. A transducer is a device that converts a signal in one form of energy to a signal in another. Thus, the device will send sound waves into the body, and as they bounce off the intended muscles, tissues or ligaments. Then, the sound waves are reflected back and converted into a single computer-generated image for medical provider review.
However, simply knowing what a transducer is and how the device works are not all that a Rad Tech must know in this field. They must also have a thorough understanding of the human anatomy. This enables Radiologic Technologists to be able to locate the parts of the body of which an image has been requested. Basic human anatomy will also give the Radiologic Technologist a general understanding of whether or not they have fully captured the intended body part once the imaging process is complete.
Another element that is pertinent to being able to produce radiologic images is being able position and re-positioning patients as needed. For the transducer to bounce sound waves off certain body parts, positioning and the angle of the transducer are key. Proper positioning is also important for capturing a quality diagnostic image, as well as helping to ensure patient safety and comfort. This is one of the many topics of focus and discussion within a radiologic technology education program.
Typical Work Day
On any given day at work in the role of a Radiologic Technologist, these professionals can expect to fulfill numerous imaging and diagnostic requests. With no two days being the same, what a Rad Tech can expect from day to day will largely depend on their workplace setting.
For example, in a hospital, Physician’s office or outpatient care center, Radiologic Technologists can expect to work with patients, positioning them as needed throughout the day. Again, this is done to develop the most accurate and informative images possible. While constantly promoting safety guidelines and providing the highest level of patient care, Radiologic Technologists in these settings will typically split their time between technological tasks and direct interactions with patients.
As these days begin, Rad Techs will initially welcome patients into their workplace and explain to them what their imaging procedures will consist of. This is done to eliminate any potential fears, and to develop a sense of trust between the Radiologic Technologist and the patient. Through these connections, prospective Radiologic Technologists will witness the reward associated with this Medical Imaging and Diagnostic Career.
Briefing patients on each procedure also gives them a better understanding of what to expect during all parts of the process, further putting their minds at ease. Building rapport with patients can prove especially beneficial in cases where the patients are undergoing treatments that may require frequent or consistent imaging.
Alternatively, in the laboratory setting, Radiologic Technologists will focus more-so on results and uncovering health problems that could potentially save lives. Yet, regardless of the professional setting, all Radiologic Technologists are meaningful additions to any diagnostic medical team.
Advancing Scope of Practice
Career advancement opportunities for Radiologic Technologists are extremely attainable. Many Rad Techs consider advancement opportunities as a way to potentially increase their salary and their level of responsibility. Check out this national Radiologic Technologist career outlook!
Pushing forth one’s career within this imaging field will normally involve gaining increased educational credentials or experience. This can be done through a certificate program or an additional training program. Furthermore, to remain registered, Radiologic Technologists must always be dedicated to learning and obtaining continuing education credits.
After developing an understanding of the basic responsibilities of a Radiologic Technologist, as well as the safety regulations surrounding radiology, a Rad Tech can consider how to best further their career in medicine. For example, Radiologic Technologists desiring to take a more technical approach to their career and the profession overall can set their sights on gaining the experience needed to apply to Clinical Instructor or Program Director positions within their employing facility.
Choosing how to best set one’s self up for continued success may also involve choosing to specialize in a specific imaging technique–possibly outside the realm of radiologic technology. Specialization options may include bone densitometry, cardiovascular-interventional radiography, computed tomography, mammography, magnetic resonance imaging, nuclear medicine, quality management, sonography or general radiography.
Noting the difference between Radiologic Technologist, Diagnostic Radiologists, Radiation Oncologists and Interventional Radiologists is also extremely important. Diagnostic radiologists specialize in the interpretation of medical images such as MR scans, CT scans, radiographs, nuclear medicine scans, mammograms and sonograms, whereas Radiation Oncologists are essentially Physicians who specialize in the treatment of cancer. Lastly, Interventional Radiologists are specialists who perform nonsurgical treatments for a number of medical conditions, most commonly vascular disease.
While all of these career opportunities fall under the more broad realm of either radiology or imaging, each role has specific differences. Therefore, learning about each career opportunity can help a professional to determine which direction they plan to take their career down the road. Overall, each career in healthcare presents a unique opportunity to learn and be immersed within the field of healthcare.
As the work of a Radiologic Technologist— known as “R.T.s” —largely depends on radiology, they must be thoroughly trained on all safety procedures and protocols. This is for both their own benefit, and the benefit and safety of the patients being imaged.
When handled with extreme caution, the development of radiologic images is not inherently dangerous. This is why all Rad Techs are required to complete at least two years of formal education in an accredited hospital-based program or at an academic institution prior to entering the field. Knowing how to operate radiologic technology equipment is integral to everyone’s safety in the workplace.
Ultimately, regulations are in place to ensure that there are less chances that Rad Techs will be exposed to unhealthy levels of radiation over time and in a number of ways. They achieve this goal though monitoring both short and long-term exposure levels with an understanding of how to lessen cancer risk.
Regardless of how a Registered Radiologic Technologist’s career paths evolves, their “radiation history” will always follow them. This is means that radiology undoubted affects long-term provider health. This is even more reason for these professionals to further ensure that their exposure to continuous high levels of radiation are avoided, and that they stay within the required safety limits.
The American Society of Radiologic Technologists has standards set which state that RTs are ultimately responsible for participating in quality assurance efforts to reduce unnecessary radiation exposure to patients, other staff members and themselves. According to the ASRT website, practice standards are authoritative statements established by the profession for judging the quality of practice, service and education.
While the ASRT makes imaging and diagnostic employees aware of all potential risks, the organization stresses that professional practice constantly changes as a result of a number of factors including technological advances, market and economic forces, and statutory and regulatory mandates. Therefore, the radiologic aspect of a career as a Rad Tech should not deter professionals from pursuing the career, as each employment opportunity has risks–even if some are as minor as simply driving to and from work. Learn more about the potential dangers of being a Radiologic Technologist.
In general, now is a great time to consider entering a career in healthcare as a Radiologic Technologist! If you aspire to work in healthcare, help make a difference in patient lives and constantly keep learning and evolving as a professional, you will love a career in imaging and diagnostics!
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2018-19 Occupational Outlook Handbook