Concorde Blog - Nov 4, 2020
If you're looking for a promising career in the medical industry with plenty of specializations, consider becoming a radiology technician. Like other medical professions, radiology technicians have several hands-on responsibilities within a health care facility. Use this guide to learn more about the radiology technician profession, what they do each day, and how to become a radiology technician.
What Is a Radiology Technician?
Radiology technicians are medical professionals who specialize in human anatomy imaging. They conduct various diagnostic imaging examinations to diagnose, treat, or rule out disease or injury. Some of the diagnostic imaging procedures they perform include the following:
- X-ray examinations
- Computed tomography scans
- Magnetic resonance imaging scans
Depending on their experience, radiology technicians may also perform techniques like cardiovascular-interventional radiography, sonography, or mammography. Radiology technicians must position patients correctly when performing any of these procedures or techniques to provide radiologists with an accurate and clear image. Having a clear image allows radiologists to determine what is or isn't wrong with a patient. Some conditions they may help diagnose include ulcers, broken bones, and cancer.
Where Do Radiology Technicians Work?
Most radiology technicians work in private, state, or local hospitals. Other places they may work include private imaging centers, outpatient care centers, laboratories, doctors' offices, or therapy centers. In these settings, they work alongside radiologists, physicians, and other health care professionals.
How Much Do Radiology Technicians Work?
The majority of radiology technicians work on a full-time basis, logging 40 hours each week. Despite this, there may be opportunities for shift or part-time work. In emergency situations, they may be required to analyze a patient at the spur of the moment. Like many other medical professions, a radiology technician's work hours vary depending on their place of employment and its needs. Depending on their schedule, they may also have weekend, evening, or on-call shifts.
What Does a Radiology Technician Do Every Day?
While radiology technicians share the same general tasks, their day-to-day duties may vary depending on their workplace, experience level, shift, and patient needs. For example, a radiology technician's duties may be different if they work in a hospital setting as opposed to an outpatient clinic setting, the latter of which tends to have a more stabilized patient count and no trauma units. Here's a look at the day in the life of a radiology technician and their various duties:
- Receive instructions from a physician: Before radiology technicians start imaging, they get instructions from a medical professional regarding what part of a patient's body needs imaging.
- Ensure all equipment is operational: Prior to taking images, radiology technicians need to verify that every machine they're using is in working order and capable of taking clear and accurate images. If it isn't, they need to notify the right party and obtain equipment that can take images correctly.
- Prepare patients for imaging: Radiology technicians introduce themselves to their patient and give them a clean medical gown prior to imaging. Then, they position the equipment or the patient depending on the area that needs to be photographed. Radiology technicians may also have to lift disabled patients to obtain a photograph of the affected area.
- Operating imaging equipment: With the patient in the proper position, radiology technicians use the equipment to obtain an accurate image of the necessary areas. During this process, they follow proper safety protocols and wear protective gear such as shielding devices to prevent them from radiation exposure and other harmful energy that diagnostic technology emits.
- Review images: After the imaging equipment takes a photograph, radiology technicians review the images to ensure they're clear enough for a diagnosis from a physician or other medical professional. While they don't make the diagnosis themselves, they need to ensure it's clear enough for a physician to use. If an image isn't accurate, radiology technicians take additional photographs.
- Print or develop images: If the images taken are accurate and clear enough for physicians to assess, radiology technicians print or develop them through a computer printing process. Then, they label each image accordingly and add them to the patient's medical records. From here, the doctor analyzes the images. If the physician needs additional angles to make a proper diagnosis, they may ask the radiology technician to take more photographs.
- Clean used equipment: After the imaging process is over, radiology technicians clean off any equipment that was used in the process. This includes imaging equipment and anything the patient may have used, such as a table. If the patient was wearing a gown, it can be thrown out or put in a container to get washed, depending on the material.
- Meet with other patients: After helping out one patient, radiology technicians meet with several more throughout their day, working alongside other members of the health care staff.
- Perform other duties: Apart from patient-related duties, radiology technicians also help with administrative or cleaning tasks throughout their workday as needed. They may also check any diagnostic machines to ensure they're working properly, complete necessary paperwork, restock supplies, verify a proper supply stock in each room, and meet with a team of other health care professionals.
Radiology Technician Education Requirements
Radiology technicians must have an associate degree. While there are other radiology programs that lead to a certificate or a bachelor's degree, the path to an associate degree is the most common for aspiring radiology technicians. When enrolled in one of these programs, radiology technicians study various courses that provide them with a greater understanding of the following areas:
- Patient positioning
- Image evaluation
- Medical ethics
- Examination techniques and procedures
- Equipment protocols
- Radiation physics, protection, and safety
- Basic patient care
In addition to these areas, radiology technicians may specialize in a specific area of medical imaging. Some specialties include CT scans or mammography.
Radiology Technician Skills
If you're an aspiring radiology technician, it's important to have several skills to help you succeed. The more relevant skills you have, the greater chance you have at employment, and the more equipped you'll be to fulfill your job duties once hired. Some notable skills for radiology technicians include the following:
- Interpersonal skills: While radiology technicians spend much of their day using advanced radiography equipment, they also interact with patients and other health care professionals. When patients share their stories or personal information, it helps to have strong people skills to display empathy and offer support.
- Patience: While it's important to display patience around the various patients you're helping, it also helps when handling radiology equipment. It may be tempting to produce images quickly, but taking your time on the first try allows you to capture a quality image without having to start over.
- Physical strength: Since radiology technicians spend most of their day walking and standing, they need to have a good amount of stamina. In addition, they need to be strong enough to move around heavy equipment and machinery. In some cases, they may need to assist or carry patients to the laboratory or imaging room as needed.
- Communication skills: Since radiology technicians need to converse with other members of a medical team, their patients, and physicians, it's important to have nonverbal, verbal, and written communication skills. Doing so ensures all duties are properly executed and that the needs of the patient are met.
- Mathematical and scientific skills: With a combination of these skills, radiology technicians can properly use a variety of diagnostic equipment on patients.
- Medical skills: As a radiology technician, you need to have a solid medical background. This involves knowing CPR and how to check vital signs. In addition, you need to have a good understanding of human anatomy and physiology.
- Detail-oriented: Radiology technicians use their attention to detail to take images of an exact body part for physicians. This skill helps them take the right image on the first try without continuously needing to take additional images.
- Medical safety skills: As with other medical professions, it's important for radiology technicians to be mindful of their surroundings. Following proper safety protocols and procedures can help lower their chances of getting an infectious disease or getting exposed to harmful radiation.
How to Become a Radiology Technician
While not every aspiring radiology technician follows the same route, there are some general steps to help you achieve your career goals regarding this profession. Following these steps can help set you up for success in a diagnostic health care setting. If you're considering a career as a radiology technician, use these steps to guide your career:
1. Graduate from High School
To become a radiology technician, you need to earn a high school diploma. During this time, make sure to focus on both your mathematics and sciences courses, as they come in handy regarding your future education and career opportunities. Some classes to focus on include anatomy, chemistry, biology, mathematics, and physics. Your high school years are also a great opportunity to intern at a health care facility to give you a greater understanding of a radiology technician's job.
2. Earn an Associate Degree
To pursue a career as a radiology technician, you need a minimum of an associate degree to obtain certification. While you can still pursue a bachelor's degree, most aspiring technicians opt for the two-year education that an associate degree program provides. During this time, you'll learn more about this field within the diagnostic health care industry. Some areas you'll study include anatomy, equipment operation, radiographic procedures, image production, radiology procedures, patient care, and physiology.
Make sure you enroll in an accredited program as required for licensure. Concorde offers a radiologic technology program that's accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) (1). When you enroll in this associate degree program, you will learn the technical skills required to succeed.
3. Apply for Certification
While there aren't any national licensing requirements to pursue a career in this field, some states follow their own licensing protocol. To help increase your chances of employment, consider earning your certification as a radiology technician.
Typically, you need to provide documentation of your academic record, fill out an application, and pass an exam that verifies your entry-level knowledge in this field. Some topics the exam will cover include your knowledge of machinery operation, image production, and general radiology procedures. The multiple-choice exam you take either comes from The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (2) or from your state. You can learn more about your state's requirements by contacting your state's health board.
While a radiography certification is sufficient for entry-level radiology technician positions, you can also choose a specialized certification as you advance in your field. Some specialties related to this field include bone densitometry, nuclear medicine technology, sonography, cellular imaging, medical imaging, radiography, breast sonography, cardiac-interventional radiography, quality management, and mammography.
4. Maintain Your Certification
Once you've obtained your certification, you need to maintain it to continue in this field. To do this, you typically need to follow continuing education requirements every two years. You also need to abide by continuing qualification requirements every 10 years to help you stay up to date with the latest technology and radiology advancements.
If you're interested in pursuing a career as a radiology technician, consider enrolling in our radiologic technology program. Concorde can train you to achieve your career goals while giving you the best tools to grow within this health care field. We also offer other programs related to patient care. For more information about any of our programs, contact us today.
1. Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology, https://www.jrcert.org/
2. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, https://www.arrt.org/