Ever had an X-ray, MRI or CT scan? You were likely assisted by a radiologic technologist. Radiologic technologists and technicians (also called radiographers) produce x-ray films of parts of the human body to diagnose and assess disease and injuries. Therapeutic radiographers help in the treatment of cancer through the use of high-energy radiation.
Radiologic technologists not only produce x-ray films and diagnostic imaging, they also prepare patients and the necessary equipment. This includes adding nonradioactive materials into patients’ bloodstreams, explaining the procedure to the patient, positioning patients so that the most accurate picture can be taken, and setting up the area and equipment to limit exposure to radiation.
Some radiographers specialize in computed tomography (CT), and are sometimes referred to as CT technologists. CT scans produce a substantial amount of cross-sectional x rays of an area of the body, from which a three-dimensional image is made. The CT uses ionizing radiation; therefore, it requires the same precautionary measures that radiographers use with other x rays.
Radiographers can also specialize in Magnetic Resonance Imaging as an MR technologist. MR, like CT, produces multiple cross-sectional images to create a 3-dimensional image. Unlike CT, MR uses non-ionizing radio frequency to generate image contrast.
About half of all radiologic technologists and technicians work in a hospital setting, while the other 50 percent work in physician offices, medical and diagnostic laboratories, and outpatient care centers. Radiologists are usually on their feet, and may need to turn or lift disabled patients, so the job calls for some physical stamina.
Health care providers are enthusiastic about the clinical benefits of new imaging technologies (especially digital imaging), but the extent to which they are adopted depends largely on cost and reimbursement considerations.
Hospitals will continue to employ the majority of radiographers, though the number of outpatient facilities and independent diagnostic imaging centers are growing and are expected to employ an increasing number of technicians.
Education and Training
Formal training programs in radiography range in length and lead to a certificate, associate degree, or bachelor's degrees. A bachelor’s or master’s degree in one of the radiologic technologies is desirable for supervisory, administrative, or teaching positions.
The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology reported 628 accredited radiography programs in 2009. An additional 96 programs were accredited in radiation therapy, medical dosimetry, and magnetic resonance.