Radiance in Practice: The Life of an X-ray Tech

If you’re curious about jobs in medicine and want to learn about different kinds, think about being a radiologic technologist. They do important work in hospitals and clinics. This guide helps you understand what they do, where they work, and how you can become one.
X-ray Tech

Today’s fancy machines like x-rays and MRIs help doctors find problems in people’s bodies. They make surgeries safer and find tiny broken bones. If you want a cool job, being an x-ray technician might be perfect! The job outlook is good too, with more jobs coming up. Let’s take a quick look at what x-ray technicians do every day.

What Is a Radiologic Technologist?

A radiologic technologist is someone who works with special machines in hospitals. These machines take pictures of the inside of people’s bodies. The technologist helps doctors see if there are any problems, like broken bones or sickness. They make sure the pictures are taken safely and help doctors understand what they see. So, they play an important role in helping patients get better.

Types of Imaging and Radiologic Technologist Specialties

Radiologic technologists use different machines to take pictures inside the body. Each machine does a different job. Here are some examples:

  1. X-ray: This machine takes pictures of bones to check for breaks.
  2. Mammography: It takes pictures of breasts to check for cancer.
  3. Computed tomography (CT scan): This machine takes many pictures of bones and organs to make detailed images.
  4. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): It uses a strong magnet to take pictures of soft tissues like muscles and organs.
  5. Ultrasound: This machine uses sound waves to take pictures inside the body, useful for checking babies during pregnancy or finding lumps.
  6. Nuclear medicine imaging: It uses a small amount of radioactive material to see how organs are working.
  7. Bone densitometry: This checks how strong bones are.
  8. Fluoroscopy: It’s like a continuous X-ray video, helpful for watching organs move and guiding treatments.

What does a radiologic technologist do?

Radiologic technologists, also known as radiographers, perform medical exams using X-rays on patients to create images of specific parts of the body. The images are then interpreted by a doctor for diagnosis and monitoring of disease. Radiographers prepare patients for the exams, move patients to the correct position, operate the equipment, and use their knowledge and skill to minimize the radiation dose to the patient.


Radiologic technologists can specialize in many different areas, including:

Potential Risks

Patients can become agitated for various reasons, whether it’s due to nervousness or pain. Over time, you might encounter patients who are not happy to be in the medical setting.

There might be situations where a patient reacts unexpectedly, like flinching during a procedure involving a needle, which could accidentally cause you to get stuck by the needle. These incidents need to be reported, and further action may be needed if you’re exposed to a used needle.

Additionally, working in healthcare means you may be at risk of exposure to bloodborne or airborne pathogens. Patients often come seeking help for symptoms like coughing or pain, requiring tests and sometimes X-rays. Since a diagnosis often depends on these tests, technicians may find themselves handling patients with contagious diseases.

Safety is Key

As a radiologic technologist, it’s crucial to prioritize both patient care and your own safety. Creating a safe working environment is essential for preventing risks like cancer from affecting you and your colleagues.

To reduce the spread of pathogens from a contagious patient, wearing a face mask properly throughout your shift is important. Additionally, washing your hands after every interaction with patients can help protect both you and others. It’s also essential to sanitize all equipment and sterilize the room regularly.

Following safety rules and regulations at all times is your best option for taking care of yourself and your coworkers. If you notice any issues or equipment malfunctions, don’t hesitate to speak up and address them promptly.

What are the risks of being a radiographer?

As x-ray operators, radiographers have a slightly increased risk of radiation exposure during their career. However, the amount of radiation from an x-ray is generally low, with less than a one in a million chance of radiologic technicians developing cancer due to their work.


X-Ray and Radiation Exposure

Radiologists are responsible for the medical imaging used for diagnostic purposes. This means that radiation exposure is a potential risk. As professionals, it is essential to utilize the modern equipment provided for your safety.

Facilities should be inspected regularly, and equipment should always be up to standard. Lead aprons and leaded glass shields are essential as frontline equipment against radiation exposure. While average radiation doses from an x-ray are not enough to harm, long-term exposure to x-ray radiation can lead to cancer risks.

Cancer Risk

Overexposure can lead to cancer risk in some workers, especially if the protective equipment is not up to standard. While it could be considered an occupational hazard, medical imaging is essential to running diagnostic tests and helping a patient start the road to recovery.

However, prolonged overexposure on the job can increase the risk of breast cancer. Adhering strictly to regulations and ensuring proper maintenance of equipment can reduce the likelihood of facing elevated cancer risk throughout your career.

Becoming a radiologic technologist

For those thinking about becoming a radiographer, it’s important to be good at math and science, communication, and thinking carefully. In high school, taking classes like anatomy, biology, chemistry, physics, and algebra can help.

Higher education requirements

To become a radiographer, you usually need to go to school after high school. You can go to a college or a hospital program. Some programs give you a degree, while others might give you a certificate. If you already have a degree, you can also get a certificate in radiography.

Certification process

After finishing your program, you have to pass a test to get certified. This test is given by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Depending on where you live, you might need a state license too.

To take the test, you usually need to have finished an associate’s degree or higher from an approved program. You also need to show that you’re a good person and can be trusted.

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