Expert Advice: Considering Radiologic Programs
by Susan Collins
The field of radiology is one of the fastest evolving specialties areas in all of medicine, and radiologic technologists have a very broad range of opportunities within the field. As today’s baby boomer generation ages, there is increasing need for those who are trained in imaging, particularly those who are conversant with the newer technologies, and those with the skills to work within an increasingly complex healthcare environment.
It is certainly a demanding role; most radiologic technologists spend a great deal of their time dealing one on one with patients, assuring that each individual they serve is scanned safely and efficiently so that the physicians they work with receive scans with the appropriate clinical information necessary for an accurate diagnosis. Ensuring that each patient has a high quality experience and is cared for competently and compassionately is equally important, and those with exceptional “people skills” are always highly valued. Although those who work in clinical environments become accustomed to seeing patients with a variety of health issues as a matter of routine, it is critical to remember that to each patient, the scan they are going to have is potentially a life altering event. Being sensitive to that reality and compassionate in every interaction with patients is enormously important.
Everyone who pursues a degree in radiologic technology will receive a thorough grounding in the sciences and in understanding the various modalities that are employed in imaging. Once the basics have been mastered, many individuals go on to pursue specialties such as nuclear medicine, mammography or MRI, which require their own unique body of knowledge and skills. These qualifications typically require additional study and board exams, but expand the opportunities to practice in an area of clinical interest. The radiologic technologist is also expected to be extremely knowledgeable about the clinical equipment they use; each scanner typically has both hardware and software components that must be mastered in order to perform each exam properly. Being comfortable with technology and managing information from many different sources is a routine part of the work, and as the expansion of electronic medical records continues, will likely become an even larger part of the job.
There are many different environments that offer career opportunities to radiologic technologists. Whether an individual prefers working with children, the elderly, disabled populations, in a general or specialty hospital, clinic or private practice, the options are nearly unlimited. For example, many radiologic technologists develop specialties such as orthopedic imaging, radiation therapy or women’s services. Those who are considering a career as a radiologic technologist are well served to explore a variety of healthcare environments and exposure to many different patient populations as they pursue their education, as there are opportunities in many different types of practice.
In addition to clinical practice, many individuals who pursue an RT degree expand the scope of their work to include roles in training, product design and applications support, or facility management and administration. Companies which develop and market radiology equipment often seek individuals with RT qualifications to fill product development, marketing and training positions, for example, and many hospitals hire those with an RT background as department directors.
No matter which career path they choose, individuals pursuing an RT degree should certainly aim to keep abreast of industry information and trends, including legislative and regulatory issues. The American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT) is a wonderful resource for this type of information along with continuing education, professional resources, and career services.