By Allison Skoglind, allied health world contributing writer
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What is the professional history of radiology assistants?
In the 1970’s several universities across the United States began discussing the possibility of developing radiology assistant programs to help create a new profession within the field of radiology. Yet it wasn’t until the 1990’s that such programs became available in response to a nationwide scarcity of radiologists along with a growing need for imaging services in patient care. The American College of Radiology (ACR), the American Registry of Radiology Technologists (ARRT) and the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT) are mainly credited for finding a mutual solution to both problems by creating the role of radiology assistants.
What is a radiology assistant?
According to the American Medical Association (AMA), radiology assistants (sometimes called radiologist assistants) are “experienced, registered radiographers who have obtained additional education and certification that qualifies them to serve as radiologist extenders.” Since a radiology assistant’s primary job responsibility is to aid in the administration of radiology to health care and medical patients for the purposes of diagnosis, assessment, examination, and imaging evaluation, they work under the supervision of a radiologist wherever diagnostic imaging is conducted. In effect, they are an occupational bridge between radiographers and radiologists.
What is the radiology assistant’s job description?
Although a radiology assistant can perform dozens of wide-ranging tasks and procedures, the ASRT outlines three major job responsibilities. First, all radiology assistants are expected to positively contribute to patient education, assessment, and general management. Also, all radiology assistants must be prepared to accurately execute designated radiology procedures including but not limited to: evaluating, reviewing, recording, and communicating initial observations regarding radiology imaging, performing magnetic resonance (MR) and computed tomography (CT) post-processing, engaging in GUI and GI examinations, and fluoroscopy. Finally, all radiology assistants are required to show dedication to patient care by routinely analyzing the quality of service provided to clients and participating in quality improvement actions within the radiology setting.
What clinical activities do entry-level radiology assistants perform?
The ARRT, ASRT, and ACR have collaborated to compose a list of forty clinical activities that all entry-level RAs should be adequately trained to preform so as to be eligible to pursue radiology assistant jobs. Some of these activities pertain to gathering or relaying patient information such as: reviewing patient’s medical records, interviewing patients, explaining radiology procedures, obtaining consent, and instructing in examination preparation. By obtaining patient information, radiology assistants can more accurately determine any risk factors that may interfere with radiologic procedures.
Other clinical activities involve performing specific radiologic and medical procedures including: radiology-focused physical examinations, monitoring ECG and IV therapy, operating fluoroscopic units, invasive nonvascular and vascular practices, and administering urinary catheterization, venipuncture, moderate sedation, and oxygen.
Another set of clinical activities relate to the pharmacology aspect of radiology assisting like explaining pharmaceutical effects and side effects, and administering contrast agents, radiopharmaceuticals, and general medication to patients.
Finally, radiology assistants should learn how to properly evaluate, review, and record post-examination data, for instance: evaluating image quality, reviewing image procedures, reporting and recording initial observations, performing follow-up examinations, and documenting procedure and post-procedure evaluations.
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