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Radiology technologists are responsible for taking x-rays of human body parts. These x-rays are then used to diagnose abnormalities and medical problems. For instance, a car crash survivor may need x-rays to check for broken bones, or a person complaining of pain may need to have an internal organ x-rayed in order to diagnose a medical problem. Radiographers generally work in hospitals, clinics or other medical environments. A radiology technologist is often called a radiology technician or a radiographer.
What Does a Radiographer Do?
A radiographer works with patients hands-on in a medical environment. They often begin a procedure by explaining the procedure to the patient. They may instruct the patient to remove any clothing or jewelry that cannot be worn during the x-ray process. The patient is then draped by a lead shield to limit excessive exposure to radiation. Radiographers are also responsible for placing patients in the proper position to be x-rayed. The radiographer must then use equipment to measure the size and thickness of the area to be x-rayed. Using the x-ray machine, the radiographer then makes x-rays, also called radiographs, of the precise detail necessary.
Radiographers have multiple responsibilities. They may be responsible for all or some of the following:
- Obeying all necessary regulations to protect people from unnecessary exposure to radiation
- Keeping patient records
- Using, maintaining and adjusting all radiography equipment
- Maintaining professional relationships with patients and other staff members
In addition to to the above competencies, radiology techs must also be able to stay abreast of new technologies. The healthcare field is forever changing, and radiology techs must be able to adapt to new equipment and methods. Other useful traits in this field are as follows:
- Kind and courteous demeanor
- Ability to work a flexible schedule (particularly for those who work in hospitals)
- Attention to detail
- Good communication skills
Radiographers may also be responsible for some administrative duties, such as making work schedules and purchasing equipment. Those with experience and leadership skills may be allowed to help manage a radiography department, which could include supervising other workers.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Radiology Technician
Most radiology techs begin their careers by completing a 2-year degree in radiography. These programs can be completed at a junior college or career school. Some students pursue a 4-year degree in the field. In order to enroll in a radiography program at most schools, a potential student must have a high school diploma or GED.
Some radiology technician schools are more competitive than others and may require a student to successfully complete prerequisite courses in mathematics and science before acceptance to the school. These selective schools also require a minimum GPA for acceptance. Some schools cap their acceptance numbers, meaning they only allow a specified number to enter the program during each new school term. Most programs require the student to pay both an admissions fee and tuition, though state and federal scholarships and grants may be available to defray the cost of education.
Skills and Competencies
Radiography, as with most healthcare fields, requires workers to have a certain skill set. A good radiology tech has the ability to deal with stressful situations and remain calm and professional when handling sick people. Radiographers must also have the ability to stand on their feet for extended periods of time. They must also have the physical ability to help move and turn sick patients who require x-rays. At times, the job might require workers to lift obese patients or even unconscious ones.
In general, after completing a radiography program, most students will be well-versed in all of the following:
- Medical imaging
- Radiologic science
- Radiation biology
- Human anatomy and physiology
Clinical work is another component of a radiographer's education. Clinical work is completed in a medical facility that allows the student worker to learn various aspects of the job via hands-on experience. A radiology technician school generally has ties with local medical facilities who are willing to work with radiography students. Via the school, students are able to arrange to complete their clinical work in a hospital, clinic or doctor's office. Some schools allow students to complete clinical work at different work sites. This better prepares students to work in either a large, fast-paced hospital environment or a slower-paced medical practice or lab. Completing clinical work also gives students a chance to network in a professional environment.
Radiology Technician Certification
Upon completion of classroom learning and clinical work, most students are prepared to sit for their certification exam. In most states, radiographers are required to hold an associate's degree as well as become certified in order to work in the field. Certification requirements vary from state to state, but it generally requires successful completion of a certification exam. Even in states where certification is not required, it is still a requirement to obtain work with most employers.
Radiology Technician Salary
In 2016, the median pay for radiographers was $58,960 per year and $28.35 hourly. The future growth outlook for radiographers is listed at 9% through 2024, which means jobs in the field are expected to grow faster than average when compared to other occupations.
In terms of advancement potential, some radiology techs with significant experience are able to move up to positions as senior techs. Some technicians also get certification in other specialized areas, such as mammography, magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography.
Many workers choose radiography because of the relatively high earning potential for the profession, especially when compared to the fairly inexpensive cost of the training. The degree can be earned in two years, and tuition at most junior colleges is affordable. The profession offers good job stability, especially when one considers the large number of hospitals, clinics and other offices that employ radiology techs. Radiology techs are able to help patients, which makes the career a rewarding one. Radiology techs who work in hospitals often have flexible schedules, and some workers prefer this schedule rather than a 9-5 workday.
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