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?