Radiographers, also known as radiologic technicians and technologists, work with patients on taking diagnostic imaging exams like X-rays. Because licensure and certification requirements vary from state to state, a radiographer may take one of several different training paths. However, the qualities of a radiographer are the same no matter where the location.
Radiographers are often on their feet for much of their work shift, and frequently need to physically assist, lift and/or turn patients who are disabled and require diagnostic imaging. They also work with heavy machinery, which they are responsible for adjusting and maintaining. In some cases, radiographers travel to homebound patients in vans with imaging machinery, which they must load and unload.
Working with radiography equipment requires a great deal of manual dexterity, as radiographers must position the equipment at precisely the right height and angle over the patient's body in order to correctly capture the image. These workers also use instruments the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics describes as "similar to a measuring tape," then set controls that will produce images with the appropriate density, detail and contrast.
Attention to Detail
The images radiographers take are based on what a physician or surgeon needs to see; therefore, radiographers must be able to follow instructions very closely. Because of the use of radiation in the imaging process, it is vital that radiographers follow the appropriate steps in protecting both themselves and the patients. This often involves wearing lead aprons, gloves and other shielding devices. For some procedures, such as fluoroscopies, radiographers must carefully prepare a solution for patients to drink that will make soft tissues appear in the images.
Most radiographers pursue an associate degree or certificate when beginning their career, though a bachelor degree is another option. Training programs for radiographers must be accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology; these programs often include both classroom and clinical instruction. Students interested in a career as a radiographer should be interested in subjects such as math, physics, chemistry and biology.