A radiologic technician is the person who is responsible for imaging services such as x-rays. They may also acquire training in another type of specialized imaging services such as computerized tomography (CT) scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Using a special type of machinery, radiologic technicians help physicians with the process of diagnosing injuries and health conditions. The main duties of the technician include preparing the machinery, loading films for x-rays and developing them efficiently.
Good communication skills are an excellent characteristic to have as a radiologic technician. They interact directly with the patient and must be able to clearly explain the procedure of imaging. This may include information as to why the test is being conducted and how to correctly position the body to obtain the right imagery. Patience may also be required as patients often have many questions relating to the imaging process so technicians can expect to explain the process multiple times a day.
Accredited radiology technician schools provide the opportunity to obtain a degree in one to four years depending on what type of degree is pursued. Certificate and associate’s degree programs can take up to two years to complete. Certificates are recommended for those who may be already trained and working in the healthcare field and are looking for a change in careers. The most common places that offer programs and training in radiology technology include community colleges, universities, technical schools and some hospitals. In some schools, there may be a waiting list that allows a certain amount of students into the program per year.
Prerequisite courses may be required prior to entry into the program. These may include basic math and technology, medical terminology, CPR training, and anatomy and physiology courses. Students can expect to take a variety of courses that relate directly to the field of radiology upon entry into a program. Although schools may vary in the required courses, most schools have a curriculum that may typically involve courses such as:
• Introduction to medical imaging
• Applied radiographic technology
• Patient care
• Radiology safety procedures
• Law and ethics in medical imaging
• Equipment and imaging management
It is helpful to understand the career in radiology before choosing a school. It is also recommended to find a school that offers as much hands-on training as possible. As soon as training is complete, the student should be able to begin working in their new career.
Students considering a career in the healthcare field as a radiologic technician will find that the occupation is projected to continue its strong growth and employment prospects are favorable. Educational programs leading to a career as a radiologic technician include certificate programs and associate and bachelor’s degree options. Schools offering this program are accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology and prospective students need to research schools they are considering to ensure they possess this accreditation. Graduation from an accredited program is necessary to be eligible to take a national licensing examination which leads to certification, often required by states for licensure.
Coursework in radiologic technology will discuss anatomy and physiology, radiation physics, medical terminology and pathology. Given the substantial amount of patient contact a technician has they are also trained in areas related to ethics and patient care to make sure they are sensitive to each patient’s unique needs, uphold confidentiality and treat each individual they see with respect and dignity. Academic programs combine academic coursework with clinical field experiences designed to provide the opportunity to practice what they have learned in classes and labs, experience the responsibilities a technician has in physician offices or outpatient care centers and expand their overall knowledge of the field.
Radiologic technicians competently perform diagnostic imaging procedures ordered by a physician such as x-rays, CT scans, MMRIs and mammograms. These examinations provide the physician with critical information regarding a patient’s condition or symptoms and help to diagnose a patient or view their progress. Licensure regulations vary according to the state a technician is employed in and the state board can provide interested individuals with this information. Federal guidelines also govern the safe use of radiation devices by radiologic technicians and patients through the training process. Most employers only consider certified technicians for employment opportunities and prefer those who are adept at a variety of imaging procedures.
Following completion of an accredited radiologic training program graduates are eligible to sit for the national examination offered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technicians. Successful completion of this exam leads to the designation as a certified radiologic technician. Hospitals have traditionally been a major employer of technicians but the increased use and effectiveness of diagnostic imaging has created additional opportunities in outpatient centers and private physician offices. Salaries for radiologic technicians vary depending on years of experience, location of employment and level of specialization. Median salary ranges for technicians are from $48,000 to $55,000 with numerous opportunities for career advancement and mobility.
A radiology technician uses X-ray machines to produce images of patients that can be helpful in diagnosing medical problems. Radiology technicians help prepare a patient before for an X-ray by making sure he understands the procedure and positioning his body to be properly examined. They also keep records and maintain equipment. Radiology technicians are supervised by a doctor who provides clear instructions about the images they need. A person considering this career should be strong and fit because radiology technicians have to stand on their feet for hours at a time and may have to lift certain patients.
Required Education and Training
Depending on the program they choose, radiology technicians may obtain a certificate, associate degree or bachelor’s degree. If they choose a certificate program, they only have to be in school for 21 to 24 months. Once they are done with their program, they must obtain a license before they are allowed to work with patients.
Radiology technicians typically work 40 hours a week, but may be required to work evening and weekend hours. Radiology technicians may sometimes be required to travel to patients’ homes to perform procedures at their bedsides. Since they are exposed to a lot of radiation on the job, they must protect themselves so they do not risk their health. They use lead aprons, gloves and other protective devices. Radiology technicians keep a record of the amount of radiation they receive. Some radiology technicians work for more than one employer so they have to consider travel to and from the two facilities.
Radiology technicians can make a pretty decent salary. The average radiology technician made $52,210 in 2008. A radiology technician can typically make the most amount of money at medical laboratories and the least amount of money at doctors‘ offices.
Radiology technicians may advance in their careers if they receive additional training or education. Some radiology technicians may even be promoted to a chief radiologic technician, supervisor and department director.
Job prospects for radiology technicians remain good. Employment for radiology technicians is expected to grow faster than average. Those who have knowledge of different diagnostic imaging procedures will have the best opportunities. Radiology technicians who are willing to relocate also will have better job prospects.
Most radiology technicians work in hospitals, but some will find jobs at doctors’ offices, diagnostic imaging centers and outpatient care centers.