Concorde Blog - Oct 29, 2020
A career as a radiologic technologist offers a promising job outlook in a variety of settings, including in hospitals, medical centers, outpatient care centers, and physicians' offices. Whether you're new to the radiology field or you simply want to learn more about the job opportunities available to you, knowing where you can work as a radiologic technologist is an important step toward pursuing this career. Here, we explore the most common places radiology technicians may work as well as popular specializations they can pursue to expand their career options.
What Is a Radiologic Technologist?
A radiologic technologist is a medical professional who performs various diagnostic imaging exams in a medical setting. Diagnostic imaging exams a radiologic technologist may be responsible for include computer tomography (CT) scans, X-rays, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exams. Some radiologic technologists may choose to specialize in niche imaging techniques like mammography, sonography, or cardiovascular-interventional radiography. Once the technologist has completed an imaging exam with a patient, they work closely with the radiologist, or the medical doctor who specializes in medical imaging, to interpret the results of the exam.
Common work duties a radiologic technologist may be responsible for throughout their day include:
- Explaining the imaging exam procedure to patients and answering any questions they may have about the procedure.
- Preparing the imaging exam equipment for use.
- Setting up the examination room for patients.
- Accurately position patients for the imaging exam.
- Gathering information from the imaging exam for interpretation by the radiologist.
- Ensuring that patients are safe and comfortable throughout the imaging exam process.
- Administering trace quantities of radiopharmaceuticals to patients so that their tissues, organs, and bones are seen more clearly on an imaging exam.
- Administering radiation doses to a patient as part of cancer or other disease treatment.
- Utilizing sound wave technology to get images of a patient's tissues and organs.
- Measuring a patient's bone mineral density using proper equipment.
Individuals wishing to pursue a career as a radiologic technologist can obtain an associate degree in as little as 21 months. Radiology technician jobs are projected to grow at a higher-than-average rate of 7% (1) between 2019 and 2029.
Places Where a Radiology Technician Can Find Employment
A radiology technician has several job paths available that can offer a fulfilling career experience and an exciting work environment. The most common locations where radiology technicians work include hospitals, outpatient care centers, physicians' offices, and medical centers. Radiologic technologists can also choose to specialize in a particular field, such as in bone densitometry and gynecologic ultrasonography, which will open the doors to working in more specialized medical facilities. Here's a look at the most popular places radiology technicians are employed.
Local, state, and private hospitals are the most common places of employment for radiologic technologists, with 60% working in hospitals in 2018 (2). Radiology technicians play an integral role in hospitals and provide a variety of imaging exam services to patients. These professionals also provide support to a patient's care team, which may include doctors, nurses, and radiologists, throughout the course of the patient's diagnosis and treatment for medical conditions.
Within the hospital setting, a radiology technician may work in a specific area of the facility. Commonly assigned areas for radiology technicians include the emergency room, the operating room, and critical care units.
When a radiologic technologist is assigned to the emergency department of a hospital, they'll need to either perform diagnostic imaging via a portable machine at the bedside, or they'll have to transport patients from the ER to the exam room. This work environment is often very fast-paced, and radiologic technologists will be exposed to patients with varying levels of injuries and conditions.
Radiology technicians who work in the operating room will typically follow a predictable diagnostic imaging schedule based on the operating room's surgery schedule. They perform imaging exams on patients before, during, and/or after surgery based on the needs of the doctor.
Critical Care Units
The primary critical care units in a hospital are the intensive care unit (ICU) and the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). These units are where the most critical patients stay, and radiology technicians working in these units must be incredibly careful and cautious when performing imaging exams here. Common duties performed in critical care units include routine X-ray exams and line placements.
Radiologic technologists may also provide their services on an as-needed basis in various hospital departments. They typically have regular and direct contact with patients throughout the course of their day in a hospital, so they need good interpersonal skills in addition to the hard skills required to be a radiologic technologist.
The work schedule for a radiologic technologist working in a hospital is typically 40 hours a week but can easily surpass this number due to the constant demand in hospital facilities. Some who work in hospitals are also required to be on call on the weekends and at night.
A radiologic technologist may work in a medical or radiology laboratory and provide their services to patients who come into the lab for diagnostic imaging. Technicians working in a lab setting perform similar duties to those working in other medical environments, including operating advanced imaging and radiation therapy machinery to obtain the necessary imagery needed by radiologists to interpret and make a diagnosis.
Some medical laboratories that employ radiologic technologists are specialized, so they must be knowledgeable in the particular specialization of the lab. For example, a lab specializing in bone densitometry will need a radiology technician who is an expert in using X-rays and other imaging tools to calculate a patient's bone density.
Outpatient Care Centers
Another common location of employment for radiologic technologists is outpatient care centers. Within this setting, radiology techs typically have a more stable workload compared to those who are employed in hospitals. There is also little to no trauma in relation to patient status in outpatient care centers, making this an ideal work environment for radiology professionals who prefer a predictable daily routine on the job.
Much of a radiologic technologist's day at an outpatient center is spent reviewing patient documentation and administering the proper imaging tests based on the patient's injuries or condition. Other common duties in an outpatient care center include prepping patients before imaging, positioning patients for imaging, completing patient paperwork after the imaging tests are performed, and transporting patients to and from the imaging department.
In smaller outpatient clinics, radiology techs may also be required to perform other basic duties such as taking patients' vital signs and helping out with charting. They may also be in charge of monitoring inventory levels for the clinic and ordering supplies when inventory is running low.
Private Health Care Facilities
Radiology technicians can work in private health care facilities and perform many of the same duties as in other health care environments such as hospitals and outpatient centers. Private health care centers may specialize in a particular area, so a radiology technician will need to be educated in that area in order to work at that facility.
For example, a private gynecological medical facility will need radiologic technologists who specialize in gynecologic ultrasonography, vascular interventional obstetric sonography, echocardiography, Doppler sonography, and musculoskeletal sonography. These imaging exams are all required to monitor the progress of pregnancy as well as for other routine gynecological examinations.
Private Imaging Centers
Private diagnostic imaging centers or independent imaging centers are medical facilities that focus solely on providing diagnostic imaging services to patients. Whereas hospitals, private health care facilities, and outpatient centers all offer additional health care services, private imaging centers provide only imaging services. Many patients find these locations more convenient as they don't have to endure the long waits often associated with other medical facilities like hospitals.
Imaging centers typically offer several different kinds of imaging services, so radiologic technologists who work at these centers will need to be familiar with the machines and techniques used. The most common types of imaging utilized in a private imaging facility include:
- CT scans
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scans
Radiology technicians will have many of the same duties as those working in other health care centers. They may also be required to perform back-office tasks if the private center is smaller. These tasks may include ordering inventory and filling out and filing patient paperwork.
A radiologic technologist who works in a physician's office will perform imaging processes to support the doctor in the diagnosis and treatment of patients. Some doctors' offices specialize in one area of medicine, such as obstetrics, so the radiologic technologist will need to be experienced in using the equipment associated with that specialty. As with private imaging centers and outpatient facilities, radiology techs may also be required to perform duties outside of their immediate job description depending on the size of the facility and the number of employees who work there.
Therapy centers are also common places of employment for radiologic technologists. Many therapy centers that employ radiologic technologists provide therapeutic radiology, or radiation oncology services. These services are aimed at treating cancer and various other diseases via radiation therapy. Radiology technicians who work in oncology therapy centers are typically referred to as radiation oncology technicians and are responsible for administering radiation therapy to patients.
In this setting, technologists will work one-on-one with each patient before, during, and after treatment to ensure the proper dosage is given and that the patient is comfortable throughout the treatment administration. The radiology tech will also work closely with the oncology team at the facility, which usually consists of a primary doctor, a medical physicist, a radiation oncologist, and a dosimetrist. Technicians may work with the same set of patients daily for several weeks throughout the course of their treatment and are typically the most accessible member of the patient's oncology team.
Popular Specializations for Radiologic Technologists
Radiologic technologists have the option to specialize in one or a number of subspecialties within the radiology field. Having a specialization can play a role in where the radiology technician works. The most prominent specializations within this field include:
- Obstetric sonography: This form of imaging uses sonography to look at the fetus as well as the female reproductive organs during pregnancy. Radiologic technologists place the transducer over the pregnant woman's belly to get images of the embryo or fetus. The image is then examined by the doctor to check for any abnormalities.
- Vascular interventional sonography: This imaging specialization uses ultrasound technology to gain access to the veins that are being utilized for catheter placement. Radiologic technicians will ultrasound the veins to help avoid complications like bleeding during the insertion of the catheter. The tech will also guide the person inserting the catheter with a special X-ray (fluoroscopy).
- Bone densitometry: Bone densitometry is a specialization that incorporates the use of X-ray technology to measure bone density.
- Mammography: This specialization uses low-dose X-rays to take images of the breast, a procedure known as a mammogram. This type of radiology exam is used to detect and diagnose breast abnormalities and diseases such as breast cancer and lumps. Many mammography radiologic technologists work in medical centers specializing in gynecology.
- Angiography: Angiography is a radiology technique in which an X-ray is used to look at the inside of a person's blood vessels. Technicians most frequently use this technique to look at blood vessels in the heart chambers and arteries. Before this imaging exam can be administered, a contrasting agent is first injected into the blood vessels. This agent is what the X-ray image picks up on and allows for a clear view of the vessels.
- Cardiovascular interventional radiology: This radiology specialization entails using imaging techniques to guide various therapeutic procedures in the flow of blood to and from the heart. Images are captured using small instruments with tubes, like catheters. This allows the radiology tech to navigate through the appropriate areas, such as in an angioplasty procedure.
Contact Concorde Career Colleges today to learn more about how our Radiologic Technology program can help prepare you for a career in this field in as few as 21 months.
1. "Radiologic and MRI Technologists," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/radiologic-technologists.htm
2. "Radiologic and MRI Technologists: Work Environment," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/radiologic-technologists.htm#tab-3
3. Image via Flickr by IAEA Imagebank