What Do You Do?

spineI am a Radiology Technologist. I perform x-rays and mammography. Every year at my workplace, high school students come to the healthcare clinic and spend some time in our department. Many of them have had an x-ray and they see the tech from a patient’s perspective. We tell them how to pose, we go push a button and send them on their way.

Next week we will be having students visit our department. Now we get to show them what really goes on in the life of an X-ray Technologist. Being a tech takes intelligence, people skills, communication skills, and problem solving. We learn anatomy & physiology, physics, radiation safety, and positioning. We are learning all the time. We keep up with changing technology and adapt our skills. We research new treatments so we understand what our patients are going through.

We are naturally curious. We are required to earn continuing education credits to keep our license. We are held to high standards, both professionally and personally. We have an ethics requirement we must fulfill. Mammography is especially stringent. We have inspections from the FDA, a physicist,  and the American College of Radiology. Our equipment, facility, quality assurance records, and images are inspected to make sure we are in compliance with regulations put in place to protect our patients.

We dispense radiation directly to the patient’s body in order to get an image that will help the doctor diagnose what is going on. Most people, even other health care workers, don’t think about radiation. You can’t see, hear, feel, or taste it. But it is there and it poses danger to the body. Radiology Technologists are aware of these dangers and know how to use as little radiation as possible to achieve the data we need. We protect our patients. We are the gatekeepers of radiation.

We also use good communication skills. We deal with doctors, nurses, physicists, and patients. Our patient may be sick, in pain, hard of hearing, scared, angry, confused, or have a language barrier. It is our job to take the time to explain what we are going to do, why, and what they can do to help us. We work as a team. It is also our job to listen. To their words, their body language, and their facial expressions.

Being a tech requires patience. A lot of it. Patients may be confused, combative or injured. Sometimes they take it out on you. Empathy and patience go a long way in this field. Sometimes it’s hard. After all, you may be a professional but you are also a human being. You have to bounce back and move on the next challenge.

So that is what we do, a part of it anyway. I won’t bore you with the details of scheduling appointments, taking phone calls, dealing with computer issues, inputting orders, coding and charging for exams, and advising doctors on what study will help give them the information they need. After all, the students are only with us for a day!

What are the behind the scene skills of your job that you would like people to know?



2 thoughts on “What Do You Do?

  1. This was a lot of fun for me to read. I’ve had to visit the hospital for lots of tests: endoscopies, MRIs, CTs, some sort of thingy for my ears (I was so embarrassed because I quietly cried during it. I’d had a lot of tests that week and it made me so dizzy), and a thing where I had to drink a *lot* of barium before I went, and more when I got there — I cried *again* because I wasn’t warned in advance that I’d have to drink more barium when I got there and it made me gag. I swear I’m an easy patient, but even easy patients have our limits. I tried my hardest and didn’t fight. I just cried my way through until they said I’d had enough.

    I’ve never had a “bad” tech, but having a particularly empathetic one is always nice. Setting a comforting mood makes all the difference for a patient who is sick and doesn’t know what is wrong. You sound like someone who is great at your job.

    On the other hand, I’m sorry that you have rude patience. I bet they are rude because they are sick of being sick, but that does *not* make you or any health professional their verbal punching bag.

    My current job isn’t very interesting to explain, I don’t think. I absolutely love it, though. I work remotely to help a professor handle his heavy workload. There should be a second professor working face-to-face with students, but the university had to fire the other one. My boss had far too many students to give them the thorough, face-to-face experience that they deserved. So I help them with their essays before they are due — give feedback on what is expected, answer all questions, and help them understand how to write well for both school and the working world. Then I help grade the essays. But the professor reviews everything. The students’ work isn’t just graded unfairly by me; the professor understands my reasoning. I just do the heavy lifting, then he looks over it to make sure he agrees because there is no way he can give the students the attention they deserve and grade 150 essays every few weeks in a timely manner AND give students in his other class the attention they deserve.

    I think the most rewarding part of my job is seeing growth. Sadly, a lot of the college kids are not very good at writing at a basic level when we begin, so I do my best to offer simple tips for those who don’t like writing. My hope is that they’ll use those tips in their everyday writing so by the time they’re applying for work, they’ll know how to write decent cover letters and resumes. I also like communicating with students who do enjoy writing and teaching them something they didn’t know before. 🙂

    That was probably boring, but I enjoyed considering some tidbits of what I do!


  2. Megs, thank you so much for sharing that with me. First of all, I agree. Most patients get impatient because they don’t feel well and being empathetic helps a lot. As far as barium goes, I am probably one of the few techs who has never tried it. Ugg, that thick chalky liquid, yuck! No thanks! You are totally allowed to cry if you have to drink that stuff! And last but not least, your job sounds amazing and very rewarding. I used to teach college students and it was great to see someone feel they had conquered a skill after taking my class. I only wish you were helping them face to face. You seem outgoing and I’m sure the students would love you. You are helping people gain skills they will use for the rest of their lives. Kudos, sister!


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