What is a Radiologist?
A radiologist, commonly called a radiologic technician or technologists, performs a variety of diagnostic imaging examinations on patients. The most common types of diagnostic imaging examinations are x-rays, computed tomography exams, magnetic resonance imagining, and mammography.
What does a radiologist do?
Radiologists are typically responsible for several procedures during a radiologic examination. A radiologist is responsible for preparing patients for radiologic examinations by explaining the procedure to them, making sure that jewelry and other forbidden items are removed before the examination, and helping patients achieve the proper position for the radiograph examination.
Radiologists must also make sure that patients are not exposed to unnecessary amounts of radiation. This is achieved by properly covering the exposed area of a patient with a radiation protective device, such as a lead shield, or limiting the size of the x-ray beam.
Before an area of the patient can be x-rayed or given an radiologic examination, the radiographic equipment must be properly positioned at the correct angle and height over the determined area of the patient’s body. The radiologist must then measure the thickness of the area to be examined—such as the ankle, or hand—so that they can set the controls of the x-ray machine to reflect the desired level of thickness, density and contrast of the produced radiograph.
The controls are then used to activate the x-ray beam (or any other radiologic technology) and produce an x-ray graph. The final steps of a typical radiologic examination depend on the facility that the radiologist is working in. Many modern hospitals and clinics now use computers to scan the results of radiologic examinations to the hospital server, where it can be accessed by the physician in his office or on any hospital computer. However, the traditional method is for the finished radiograph to be physically taken and delivered to a mounted x-ray display case for examination by a physician.
Radiologists are also responsible for adjusting and maintaining radiologic equipment, as well as keeping patient records.
The job of a radiologist will vary. Some radiologists perform dozens of procedures each day, and work regular hours. Others may be on-call and only perform procedures during emergencies or special cases. Some radiologists may only perform the “simpler” procedures such as x-ray, while others will perform much more complex radiologic imagining procedures. For example, when performing fluoroscopies, radiologists must prepare a solution for the patient that will allow the soft tissues in the body to be seen on a radiograph.
Training, Education & Schooling
There are several ways to gain entry into the radiologist profession. While some hospitals in the past have taken radiologists without experience or training in the field, most states now require some type of certification or licensure to be employed as a radiologist.
Many colleges offer training programs in radiology. Certificates in radiology can typically be earned in a year or less. An associate’s degree in radiology can typically be earned in two to three years, while bachelor’s degrees in radiology will take four years.
The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology accredits many training programs in radiography. There are an estimated 213 programs that result in a certificate, 397 programs that result in an associate’s degree, and 35 resulting in a bachelor’s degree. An accredited program will meet the educational satisfaction of the Joint Review Committee, by providing classroom and clinical instruction in appropriate areas.
If you are training to become a radiologist, you should expect to learn about anatomy and physiology, radiation physicians and protection, medical terminology, medical ethics, radiobiology, pathology, as well as the principles of imaging and how to work with medical patients. Most programs require both clinical and classroom instruction.
Although there is federal legislation which is intended to protect the public from unnecessary exposure to radiation, it is up to each state to require the licensure of radiologist. Most states do require licensure for radiologists; however, specific requirements for your state can be obtained by contacting your state’s health board.
Someone hoping to work as a radiologist should be able to follow instructions very precisely. A radiologist works with radiation, which can be harmful to themselves, their patients, and their coworkers. Correctly following federal regulations regarding protection from unnecessary exposure to radiation is a very important part of a radiologist’s work.
A radiologist must know how to use their eye and medical equipment to correctly examine of the body as ordered by the physician—examining the wrong part of the body or using the wrong settings on the machine can cost employers thousands of dollars and your coworkers and patients time.
A radiologist should have good physical health and be able to assist patients into position. A radiologist’s job will likely require heavy lifting and a sturdy balance.
Strong math, science, and anatomy skills are also essential to training and working as a radiologist.
Strong interpersonal skills are a requirement of most medical jobs, and a radiologist is no exception. Radiologists work with a wide range of patients and must be able to sympathize with patients and treat them with respect, while maintaining a professional attitude.
Salary & Prospective job Market
Employment of radiologists is expected to rise by about 17 to 20 percent from 2008 to 2018, which is faster than average. Radiologists will be in higher demand as the population ages, and the demand for diagnostic images increases. Radiologists will also see a rise of patients requiring diagnostic imaging for the monitoring of diseases and diseases treatment. An increase in diagnostic imaging used as the first line of detection for many diseases is also expected.
Radiologists with knowledge in particular fields, such as mammography, CT, and MR, can expect more employment opportunities and therefore better salaries as well than those without specialization. Many employers are consolidating positions by seeking out employees with multi-credential backgrounds. For example, a clinic that may have had a mammographic radiologist and an x-ray radiologist may now only wish to employ a single radiologist who can perform both of these jobs.
The median annual earning salary of radiologists ranges from an estimated $35,00 to $75,000. Radiologists with a higher level of experience, training, and licensure in several specialties will typically have a higher annual salary.