Radiology Technologist Job Description

What’s included in the radiologic technologist job description?

Radiology technology is one of the largest and fastest growing allied health professional fields. Radiology technologists help physicians diagnose and treat patients by performing diagnostic procedures and administering treatments through the use of diagnostic imaging machines and medical procedures that involve the use of ionizing radiation, sound waves, magnetic fields, radiopharmaceutical agents, technologically advanced equipment, and computer imaging software. Radiology technologists have a great deal of interaction with patients and with other members of the medical team and are deeply involved in medical care. However, radiology technologists with extensive experience and background in administration may choose to branch out into health management or education and training roles.

A radiology technologist performs a variety of diagnostic imaging procedures, including radiographic, or x-ray, examinations.  Performing these procedures not only involves operating the equipment that takes the images of the designated portion of a patient’s body, but it also involves positioning patients within the appropriate machine, explaining the purpose and process of the procedure, and adjusting the equipment as appropriate for the specific test requisitioned. 

Some of the procedures performed by radiology technologists include basic x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, MRI scans, PET scans, cholangiography, mammography, femoral arteriography, lymphangiography, and myelography.  Some of these tests may require radiology technologists to administer pharmaceutical or radiopharmaceutical agents to patients orally, through IV or catheter.  Tests that require the administration of these agents will also require the radiology technologist to monitor the patient’s vital signs and other indicia of his or her condition throughout the procedure in order to watch for adverse or allergic reactions.

After taking images of a patient’s body using diagnostic imaging equipment, the radiology technologist may be involved in generating and processing the images.  For instance, a basic x-ray is, essentially, a form of photograph.  The radiology technologist must develop the film using the appropriate photographic chemicals.

The radiology technologist also has some basic administrative duties, including the maintenance of a proper inventory of radiographic materials and other supplies necessary for conducting diagnostic imaging procedures; the assembly, repair, and troubleshooting of imaging equipment; and the maintenance of patient records and documentation related to the use of diagnostic imaging machines and radioactive material.

The best radiology technologists also stay on top of new developments in their field.  They may read, and sometimes even author, scholarly articles about new advances and techniques in radiology technology.  They may also regularly attend conferences where professionals in the field gather to discuss the practice of and science behind radiology technology.

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What are some safety precautions practiced in radiologic technology?

Some of the materials that are used in the field of radiology technology are radioactive and can thus pose a health hazard to patients and to medical staff if they are not handled and stored properly.  Radiology technologists have a responsibility to properly store and handle these materials, as well as to warn others of the potential dangers of these materials.  For instance, while the radiation in x-rays is usually administered in such low doses that it poses no health risks, some x-rays could potentially harm a fetus.  Thus, radiology technologists must ascertain that women of childbearing age are not pregnant and warn them of the risks before performing certain procedures.  They must also ensure that patients are properly equipped with protective gear and garments when appropriate.

Because radiology technologists work with radioactive and other potentially hazardous materials, those who pursue this career path should have a detailed understanding of and healthy respect for radiation and the principles of radiology and radiation medicine.  Although radiology technologists are exposed to radiation in the course of their work, the levels used in diagnostic imaging procedures are so low that it does not pose a significant health risk as long as proper precautions are taken.  Lead aprons and other devices and equipment are available to protect both the radiologic technologist and his or her patients from unnecessary exposure to radiation.   Radiologic technologists wear special badges that monitor their exposure to radioactive materials so as to prevent them from receiving any unintended and harmful exposure to radiation.

What additional skills do radiologic technologist jobs involve?

Working as a radiology technologist requires a certain amount of physical strength and stamina.  Radiologic technologists spend a great deal of time on their feet, operating diagnostic imaging equipment and facilitating intake of patients and properly positioning them in imaging machines.  On occasion, a radiology technologist may be required to perform diagnostic tests on a patient who is infirm, disabled, or unconscious; this may require physically lifting, moving, and assisting the patient so that he or she is properly positioned for the procedure.

Radiology technologists must be meticulous and attentive to detail.  The equipment that they use is very sensitive.  It must be finely calibrated in order to operate properly, and the patient must be properly placed in the machine and the machinery handled precisely in order to produce useable diagnostic images.

Because they interface with patients on a routine basis, radiology technologists also need to have well-developed communication skills.  They should be able to allay patient fears and concerns and explain diagnostic procedures clearly.  In addition, radiology technologists must communicate regularly with other members of the healthcare team that are involved in treating patients, so they need to display professionalism and work well as members of a team.   

The materials that radiology technologists handle emit ionizing radiation.  While they are safe when used in the proper manner and dosages, they can be dangerous if handled or stored improperly. Therefore, radiologic technologists need to be knowledgeable about the various substances they use in their work and aware of the dangers they pose.  They must exercise responsibility and good judgment in protecting themselves, other clinical staff and patients from potential hazards.

Where do radiology technologists work?

Radiology technologists work in a wide variety of venues.  Most radiology technologists are employed by hospitals, where they work in radiology departments, as well as in a number of other hospital units including mammography departments, emergency rooms, and cardiology departments. They also work as ultrasound operators in obstetrics and prenatal care departments of hospitals and as radiation therapists in oncology departments.

Many radiology technologists work in ambulatory and outpatient clinics and in private medical practices for orthopedic surgeons, oncologists, gynecologists, obstetricians, and cardiologists.  In addition, stand-alone diagnostic imaging facilities are becoming more and more popular and employ a number of radiology technologists who perform CT scans, MRI scans, and other diagnostic procedures on patients who are referred by hospitals and private physicians.  

Why should I consider a career in the field of radiology technology?

Radiology technology is a rapidly growing field that is constantly evolving due to exciting technological advances.  It is an ideal career field for individuals who wish to combine direct patient care with a love for and fascination with technology. A radiology technologist’s work is challenging and rigorous but offers many rewards.  This profession will appeal to those interested in a job that involves a high level of responsibility as well as those who like to continue learning new things throughout their careers.  Radiology technologists enjoy frequent contact and interaction with patients and work closely with physicians.  They are often on their feet and perform numerous diagnostic tests and other tasks each day.  Their efforts are crucial to obtaining a correct diagnosis and, consequently, to devising the proper treatment plan for individual patients.

As one of the largest of the allied health professions, radiology technology offers many opportunities for career advancement and satisfaction for individuals with dedication and the right education, training, and skills.  The work of a radiology technologist is fast-paced and exciting and involves meeting a variety of people and performing a number of different procedures and tasks.  Pursuing a career in the field of radiology technology provides a unique opportunity to serve in an allied health profession located squarely at the intersection of patient care and technology.

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Radiologic Technologist Schools