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Do You Know Who's Taking Your X-Ray?

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

One of the greatest medical discoveries took place on Nov. 8, 1895, when physicist Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen discovered the x-ray. This discovery led to what has become one of the most important diagnostic and therapeutic tools used in nearly every area of modern medicine. To commemorate the anniversary, the American Society of Radiologic Technologists is sponsoring the 29th annual National Radiologic Technology Week, Nov. 2-8, 2008.

NRTW celebrates and recognizes the valuable work medical imaging and radiation therapy professionals contribute to the health care community. The services they provide play an integral role in the medical process and in the lives of millions of patients.

Who are the professionals who perform medical imaging and radiation therapy? If you watch primetime television shows such as "House" or "Grey's Anatomy" you may believe that physicians perform these procedures. However, the medical professionals who perform medical imaging are called radiologic technologists. They are educated in anatomy, patient positioning, examination techniques, equipment protocols, radiation safety and protection and basic patient care. Radiologic technologists, or R.T.s, may also specialize in particular techniques of medical imaging such as bone densitometry, cardiovascular-interventional radiography or mammography. Some R.T.s specialize in radiation therapy where they deliver high doses of radiation to treat cancer or other diseases.

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R.T.s perform more than 300 million procedures annually in the United States. Procedures range from computed tomography or CT scans, to magnetic resonance imaging, radiation therapy and ultrasound. Medical images are used to diagnose and evaluate conditions that affect every part of the body including broken bones, blocked arteries and tumors. ASRT's NRTW acknowledges R.T.s' hard work, education and commitment to quality patient care.

You may be surprised to learn that some of the individuals who perform medical imaging procedures or administer radiation therapy may have limited education and training, and no credentials. This is because the federal government does not regulate personnel who operate medical imaging or radiation therapy equipment, and only 43 states have licensure laws.

The next time you, a friend or family member needs a medical imaging or radiation therapy procedure performed, make sure the R.T. performing the procedure is certified by a national agency or licensed by the state. Nationally certified R.T.s must complete at least two years of education in various aspects of radiography, pass a comprehensive certification exam and earn continuing education credits. Licensure laws vary at the state level, but most require radiologic personnel to demonstrate their competency through a combination of education, testing and experience. Protect your loved ones by asking for a qualified R.T.

The ASRT represents 130,000 members who perform medical imaging procedures or plan and deliver radiation therapy. The Society is the largest radiologic science association in the world. Its mission is to provide radiologic technologists with the knowledge, resources and support they need to improve patient care.