Many of us choose to enter medicine or healthcare because of that burning desire to help people in one way or another. The options open to you in the healthcare industry are many, from providing care to nursing, and, of course, the “higher-end” roles, such as doctors and surgeons. When we think of the routes into healthcare, we tend to look at how to look after people, but there are so many other smaller aspects to the whole industry. Radiology is one of those. If you have ever had an X-ray, you will have very likely met a radiologic technologist. But it isn’t just X-rays that these radiologic technologists specialize in, there are many different areas. These include:
Radiography: This is where X-ray equipment is used to produce 2-D or 3-D images of the interiors of the body.
Sonographers: They use sound waves of a high frequency to create anatomical images.
Radiation Therapists: This is a common method of treating cancer and diseases by administering doses of radiation.
Magnetic Resonance Technologists: This is a method used to create images of the anatomy via a combination of radiofrequency pulses and a magnetic field.
Nuclear Medicine Technologists: These use specialized cameras and radiopharmaceuticals to produce images of people’s organs.
The areas that radiography covers means you can go down any of these routes. The scope for radiography means that so many healthcare settings require specialists. You can work in a hospital, a physician’s office in a rural setting, or a suburban outpatient clinic. Areas of clinical specialty available to a radiologist include orthopedics, prenatal care, and disease treating and management.
If you are more intent on focusing on the theories or educational aspects behind radiology, you could run a radiology department, undertake research into radiation therapy and its various branches, or you could become a teacher. These are a few career paths in the field of radiography that you could venture into. Put simply, there are no bounds to your career in radiography.
Personal Skills For The Role…
To work in this field, and with the vast scope of roles available to you, this means you are working with lots of different types of people. Radiation therapy, for example, means that you are dealing with people suffering from cancer or life-threatening diseases. This means that you could be dealing with people who are of a very sensitive temperament, and with many patients, they are unlikely to want to focus on the details of the illness itself. Many radiographers have found that it is not a “depressing” job, but is very rewarding. With the vast majority of patients you are working with, you will see on a very regular basis, depending on the course of treatment they will go under. As a result, you need to be very personable because you will be developing a working relationship over a long period of time, and this will be one of the highlights of the profession. You need to be a good communicator with patients, and you will be working with those that are ill and unable to move much, so you need to possess empathy skills. You need to be aware that the slightest movement can cause them pain. At the same time, the amount of time that you spend with them is of the utmost importance. You need to get the diagnostic imagery you need as quickly as possible while causing them as little discomfort as possible.
On the other side of the coin, if you are working with patients who are trying to fight a disease and end up losing their battle, this can have an effect on you emotionally. But as with any healthcare role, this is a part of the job so you will need to come to terms with the fact that people you have forged relationships with may not survive, which can affect you in your role. However, this doesn’t mean that you will be working alone. Many radiographers work in a team, which means there is a diverse and dynamic working environment, which can be very uplifting in terms of morale. As a role itself, it combines technical knowledge, working with a range of people from different medical backgrounds, and based on what you are doing on any given day it could mean covering so many different areas of medicine. The role itself is very rarely dull and boring!
The Education Path…
Entering the radiographer field takes years of study. The entry-level requirement is to become a Medical Doctor (MD) first, and then you can take radiology courses. In the USA, the first step before entering medical school is to earn a Bachelor’s Degree from an accredited college or university. Before you choose which college or university to attend, you need to make sure that the college is acceptable to any medical school. You can do this by speaking to a student academic counseling center to get a good all round idea of what medical schools look for in terms of which undergraduate degrees are more favorable. But as a general rule, it would be advisable to do a degree that is linked to medicine, such as biology or biomechanics.
Once you have completed your undergraduate program, you are then able to take the Medical Colleges Admission Test (MCAT). This is a multiple choice test lasting 4 hours and 30 minutes, and the areas tested are:
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
Overall, these areas will test your problem-solving skills, critical thinking, your understanding of social science, and your necessary knowledge to study medicine. You will want to prepare for this test, so try to find the best MCAT test prep retargets online.
You can then become a Medical Doctor by going down one of three degree programs.
A Medical Degree: This is the traditional course focusing on the standard methods of medicinal therapies, diagnosis, and treatment.
Doctor Of Osteopathic Medicine: This follows the studies, care, and treatment of the musculoskeletal system.
A Combination Program – Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) and a Medical Degree: This is now an option offered by many medical schools, and has many benefits over a standard Medical Degree. For example, the option to pursue two different careers, and is a fast-track option where you can take a 3-year course, saving you time and money. You can also obtain additional financial support.
After completing your medical degree, you then need to pass the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam (COMLEX). These will allow you to practice medicine in the United States. Upon completion of that, you need to complete a Radiology Residency Program. This lasts four years typically, but it is all dependent on the program you are involved with, whether it is Interventional Radiology and Diagnostic Radiology (IR/DR), or just Diagnostic Radiology. But if you are then hoping to branch out into sub-specialties, you are then looking at an additional two years, one of those years is typically practicing the area on the job. Another layer of becoming a radiologist is to become Board Certified, and this is an essential route to becoming a reputable radiologist.
There are different routes to getting employed as a radiographer. You can choose to work in public or private healthcare organizations, but you are not technically classed as an employee of that hospital. There are numerous staffing agencies that provide workers for hospitals and public practices, and these can prove more beneficial for a radiologist because the agency can pay for the licensure and there are competitive salaries, some paid on a weekly basis.
Other options available to you include forming partnerships with other physicians. This can be lucrative as you would be a partner in the company and would be paying your own wage, but the nature of setting up your own business can take time, effort, and money. Another option similar to this is to work as a Teleradiologist, which is a relatively new area. This is where you work at home, and you can work for an agency and conduct your business in your home environment apart from the imaging. There are many upsides to this, including flexible hours.
The roles in radiography/radiology are vast. You can choose to go down so many different routes, and there are so many employment options for you. The payment of the job is very good and is the third highest paid medical role. The growth rate for medical roles is projected to increase by 18% to 20% up to the year 2022. As a sensible job role, it means that there is a call for radiologists, and as there are increases in diseases in the modern world, there is a bigger need for specialists than ever before. Especially with the focus on mortality rates on the Baby Boomer generation, it is demanding a higher rate of physicians and specialists to move into the medical field. As a career prospect, it is lucrative, requires a lot of education, and it is a very rewarding job, whichever way you view it.