A radiologic technologist is an allied health professional who performs medical imaging for diagnosis or treatment and may be employed in medical establishments, clinics or in private practice. They are also referred to as medical radiation technologist, radiologic technician or simply as radiographer. The work of a radiologic technologist utilises their knowledge of human anatomy and physiology, medical pathology, radiology and even physical science to get the most out of radiologic techniques they employ to get the image needed.
What does a radiologic technologist do?
In a nutshell, a radiologic technologist uses diagnostic imaging equipment to help doctors make correct diagnosis of their patient’s conditions. They should be able to manipulate x-ray equipment, computed tomography (CT) scanners, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine, or mammograms. They also prepare dyes that are needed to be taken by their patient prior to the procedure for optimal imaging.
A typical shift for a radiologic technologist includes validating doctor’s orders which kind of imaging they prefer for a specific body area. They will also have to interact with the patient as to how the procedure will be done and what they expect the patient to do while positioning them for imaging. They will also have to adjust and position the diagnostic equipment so they get the optimal images. They should also know how to operate machinery. During every procedure, they should make sure that they take the necessary precautions not to be exposed to unnecessary radiation for their patients and themselves. After the procedure, they should be able to keep track of the patient’s records and work with physicians to evaluate the diagnostic images.
How to become a radiologic technologist
People who want to pursue a career as a radiologic technologist should finish a formal training course in radiography. Many have earned their associate degree while others continue to get their bachelor’s degree. An associate degree takes about two years and is often a combination of in-house lectures and actual training. Subjects included in the course are units in medical pathology, human anatomy, radiation physics and protection, image evaluation and patient care. The program should be accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology. Most states will also require their radiologic technologists to be licensed. There is a written exam that has to be passed in order to gain license to practice. However, different states have variable requirements.
How much do radiologic technologists make?
The median annual pay for radiologic technologists in 2011 was at USD 55, 120 in 2011 where the median hourly salary was at USD 26.50. The pay decreased in 2012 at USD 54,340. The highest paid radiologic technologists will receive about USD 77,160 while entry level salary can be at USD 37,060 a year. The state of California and the metropolitan areas of Napa, Oakland and Vallejo have been identified as the highest paying areas for radiologic technologists as of 2012. In a survey conducted by the ASRT, the average national wage for radiologic technologists in 2013 was at USD 63,763 annually. The current entry level income for radiologic technologists with two years or less experience is at an average of USD 45,878 a year. Those with specialisations in CT or MRI earn more.
Career outlook for radiologic technologists
In 2010, there are about 220,000 radiologic technologists working mostly in hospitals, doctor’s offices, medical and diagnostic specialty laboratories and outpatient establishments. The employment is often full time and in shifts, which would include some evenings, holidays and even weekends. Typical full-time work week is at 40 hours but part-time and shift work is also available. The ideal radiologic technologist should have enough stamina to be on their feet during their whole shift coupled with being attentive to details and strong interpersonal skills.
As with other health professions, radiologic technologists are also prone to health hazards. They can be exposed to infections from the patients they interact with. However, the major concern is the amount of radiation they can get exposed to in line with the work they do. The protective lead aprons, gloves and shielding equipment may minimise the risk but they also monitor the amount of radiation by wearing badges that measure radiation levels in their area and recorded as cumulative lifetime dose.
According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, radiologic technologists will continue to be in demand at a growth of 21 per cent from 2012 until 2020. Those certified in more than one diagnostic imaging technique will have better job offers. Myke Kudlas, chief academic officer of the American Society for Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), believes that the career’s allure is that every day is a new experience as they get to meet different patients. A survey conducted in 2005 of radiologic technologists showed that many entered the profession because they wanted variety and help people.