When investigating careers – especially healthcare-related ones – it’s typical not to have a lot of first-hand information. Often these jobs are happening behind the scenes, but they are vitally important. One of those “I don’t know much about it” jobs is that of a radiologic technologist. The more you know, the more you realize that a radiologic technologist career has a lot going for it.
In simple terms, radiologic technologists – often known as rad techs – are diagnostic imaging professionals who help patients avoid invasive techniques and exploratory surgeries. The use of high-tech diagnostic imaging is quickly making “exploratory surgery all but obsolete,” according to the Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA).
So, what does a rad tech do in a radiologic technologist career?
It’s a unique mix of applying “patient care” and “high-tech” knowledge, which is typically the result of earning a two-year Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S. degree) from an accredited radiologic technologist school.
Rad techs interact with patients throughout the imaging process and are in charge of operating sophisticated technical equipment. The various technology types include stationary or portable X-rays, MRI units, to C-arm technologies used during surgeries.
Expectations for graduates of a radiologic technologist school include
Jason E. is an ARRT-certified radiologic technologist (radiographer) with 15 years of experience working in hospital-based imaging departments. He’s also certified in Computed Tomography (CT). Jason earned an A.A.S. degree in rad tech, and later added a B.S. and an MBA degree because he wanted to be a rad tech program director.
A. You want to be seen by patients as caregivers who also happen to be radiologic technologists. You’re taught how to be as effective in caring for people, to understand the principles behind the technology, and of course, how to be experts in using imaging equipment and procedures you’ll find when you graduate.
A. In a busy imaging center, you might be the one who’s helping choreograph imaging priorities for multiple trauma situations. Or, if you’re in a hospital in a rural area, you might be the only technologist the radiology department has. You may be doing X-rays and CAT scans from 7 a.m. Saturday morning to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Recently, there was a man in his mid-40s with a brain tumor, and the attending physician wanted to see the progress of his treatment. Although my role was to obtain the scans as ordered by the physician, I could also tell he was in pain, and I suspected he had a lot of fear about his future.
Although I was the only radiologic technologist on staff, and it was a busy day of imaging, I made the time to engage with him on a personal level. I believe this helped him through the appointment and be more comfortable during the remainder of his treatment.
A. One Saturday, I received an order for a two-view abdominal X-ray on a 76-year-old female with abdominal pain. In the X-ray suite, I asked questions to determine where her pain was coming from. She stated she had mid-back pain and that her family doctor told her it was a compression fracture that would heal on its own.
On the X-ray image of her abdomen, however, I could see a hazy area on the base of the lungs that made me suspect the pain source was not from a fracture. Based on my knowledge and experience, I recommended an additional abdominal view.
A. Yes, and I called the on-duty ER physician and recommended adding a chest X-ray to the imaging order. Because I had worked with him before and he trusted my expertise, he agreed. After obtaining the chest X-ray, the radiologic report indicated 70% of her right lung field was abnormal.
After a discussion with the ER physician, it was determined to add a CAT scan of the chest to determine the source of abnormality.
Being brought to the imaging department a second time obviously upset the patient as she saw it as an inconvenience. She did not understand why we were adding procedures, but of course, I couldn’t give her details – only the doctors can do that. I explained how different scans provide additional information that can lead doctors to accurate treatment. I did comfort the patient during this challenging time, showing as much empathy and compassion as I could.
A. Yes. Very often, in a radiologic technologist career, you’re serving as a connecting point between the radiologist and the patient. Later, after I knew the doctor talked with her about the lung cancer
Diagnosis, I took time to come back to her room in the ER. I wanted to provide her with emotional support and show her that I cared about her as a person.
Cleveland University-Kansas City (CUKC) is a nonprofit, private, chiropractic and health sciences university in Overland Park, Kansas, a part of the Kansas City metro. Most students complete their Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Radiologic Technology degree in as little as two years.
Our program is designed to prepare graduates to pass the national exam to be registered radiologic technologists. The CUKC degree structure combines classwork and lab time with clinical experiences in healthcare facilities within the Kansas City region and surrounding communities.
Imaging center professionals guided the program design, and instructors have experience doing the imaging work they’re teaching.
Other advantages of the CUKC 2-year program:
You can connect with an advisor here to get this free eBook: Your Complete Guide to a Career as a Radiologic Technologist.