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What They Don't Tell You About Radiology

Radiography is a challenging yet rewarding field allowing you to make a difference in patient lives every day. Medical imaging plays a crucial role in patient diagnosis and the job requires more than simply pushing a button to produce images.  Here are some important facts about working in Radiology:

There are LOTS of Possibilities

School and training can be "one and done" but it doesn't have to be. After successfully completing a radiography program to become an X-ray Technologist and passing the national boards, techs can learn additional modalities as well. Techs can learn MRI, Computed Tomography, Mammography, Nuclear Medicine, Radiation Therapy and earn additional certifications. Some techs choose to go back to school for management or healthcare administration as well, so the options are abundant !

You Need Excellent Communication & Interpersonal Skills

Healthcare professionals have to effectively communicate with patients, their family and other members of the healthcare team. Working as an X-ray tech is no different and we are required to take patient histories, explain exams, answer patient questions, and describe what will be expected of the patient before and during their exam. We need to communicate questions and concerns to doctors and nurses as well in order to provide great patient care and exam accuracy. Often times the tech will discuss sensitive information with patients which requires great interpersonal skills. One must also understand communication includes written skills as well and techs take detailed patient histories for accurate diagnosis.

You Must Have Great Attention to Detail

Techs must read carefully and follow directions all the time from school and moving forward in the clinical setting. We have to read doctors' orders, medical charts, diagnoses and protocols to make sure the right exam is performed on the right part for the right patient. This starts in school when reading directions for assignments, quizzes, and lab practicals. During this time the student will memorize hundreds of imaging positions. We also need to carefully evaluate images to ensure they meet positioning criteria and all required anatomy has been captured.

Yes, We Have to Touch Patients & See Blood!

Oddly, there is a common misunderstanding that X-ray technologists do not have to touch patients or will never see blood or bodily fluids. Patients get sick and vomit or have accidents and bleed. Radiographers are constantly exposed to these situations and others when caring for patients. Patients don't magically jump into the required positions for imaging. We need to explain the exam, instruct patients into position and touch them to help get them into the required position per the protocol. If the patient is coughing, sneezing, bleeding, vomiting or so forth, we still need to do our job and with compassion! This is all part of patient care.

Techs Work in a Variety of Settings Which Are Usually Taxing On the Body

X-rays are performed in all kinds of medical settings like the Emergency Room (ER), Operating Room (OR), Fluoroscopy performing contrast studies, Urgent Care, Orthopedics and other settings. This requires hours of standing on your feet much of the time, sometimes wearing heavy lead. We have to push large pieces of equipment like portable machines and imaging systems used in the operating room. Aside from moving equipment, techs often transfer patients from wheelchairs and stretchers on to the radiographic table or have to lift patients to get image receptors under them. Orthopedics usually require most exams be performed standing which requires a lot of lifting and bending.