Dangers of Being a Radiology Technician

There are many benefits to seeking a career as a radiologic technologist. Beyond the years spent learning valuable information about the human body and modern medical technology in school, the job offers an opportunity to work closely with people in need daily. However, time spent on the job comes with risks one should be aware of.

Here’s a complete guide on the risks that come with being a radiology technician before you decide to pursue this career.

Is it dangerous to be a radiologic technologist?

With every job, there come health risks and occupational hazards. It should be noted that as a radiologist, you may be exposed to higher radiation levels depending on demand. Diagnostic information can be used to help determine the best course of action for the patient in their recovery, but the imaging process has the potential to put you at risk if you are exposed.

Potential Risks

Patients are known to get irritated over time, whether they are nervous or in pain. How much depends, but gradually over the years, you will come across patients who are less than happy to be there.

You might run into a situation where a patient flinches at a needle, causing you to stick your hand during a procedure or IV insertion. These incidents will need to be reported, and follow-up may be necessary if stuck by a used needle.

You may also find yourself in the way of bloodborne or airborne pathogens due to the nature of your work. Patients come to you looking for help with a cough or ache, which means you’ll need to run tests and get an x-ray ready for them. Because a diagnosis can only be delivered after these are performed, technicians may find themselves handling a patient with a contagious disease.

Safety is Key

While patients are your priority, your safety is imperative. As a radiologic technologist, it is your job to create a working environment that reduces risks like cancer from reaching your fellow radiologists.

What can you do to reduce the spread of pathogens from an unknowingly contagious patient? Not much outside of wearing a face mask properly throughout your entire shift. To reduce exposure, wash your hands after every interaction to protect incoming patients. Sanitize all equipment and sterilize the room.

Your best option is to follow safety rules and regulations at all times to take care of yourself and your coworkers. If you notice something is amiss or that equipment is not functioning properly, speak up.

Do radiologic technologists get exposed to radiation?

More than likely, you’ve wondered about your health when pursuing this field concerning how much radiation exposure you will face when taking an x-ray or related scan for work. Cancer risk is not something radiologic technologists are unfamiliar with. Still, when it comes to working in the medical field, it’s easy to overlook your health when caring for other patients first.

Potentially, radiology technicians risk radiation exposure due to a long-term career in the field. The average dose of radiation for x rays is unlikely to cause immediate problems for professionals. Still, it is an occupational hazard one must acknowledge when applying for the job.

Of the total number of radiology technicians at risk currently staffed across the country, a minimal number (between 0.53% and 0.87%) will see complications from radiation over their lifetime. Furthermore, the loved ones or future children of a radiology technician who are regularly in close quarters with them are also unlikely to experience any illness or genetic diseases from the radiation.

For female radiologic technologists looking to start a family, extra caution should be taken to prevent accidental radiation exposure to the fetus and breast tissue. Make sure to discuss any concerns before coming to work so that you may take the necessary precautions for your developing family.

However, the risk of radiation exposure is not a concern for the average radiology technician, so long as the equipment is up to date and annual facilities checks are done by a qualified physicist according to regulations set in place.

Technology has advanced to keep radiologic technologists safe while performing the essential operations and procedures on patients. Modern innovations incorporate lead as a countermeasure for radiation exposure to protect the technicians on the job.

What are the Disadvantages of being a radiologist?

While there are benefits to having a medical-related career, radiologists do make sacrifices in their line of work to provide care to their patients. The disadvantages technicians face while working to pursue their career include:

Extensive Schooling

There is a heavy emphasis on STEM fields, specifically anatomy, biology, physics, and chemistry, to understand how the human body works. An associate’s degree may be acceptable, but post-secondary education programs can present opportunities for higher-level study and qualification.

Radiologists are required to earn their bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year college and graduate from an accredited medical school to earn an MD or DO. Graduates must also complete a residency to be considered.

In addition to years of schooling at various levels to prepare for the position, prospective radiologists will need to earn their general license. Depending on the facility, workers may also be required to be board certified before being selected for the job.

Erratic Hours

Healthcare is a 24/7 career to compensate patients whenever they require assistance. Extended hours at facilities and imaging centers mean that technicians must handle emergencies at any hour, and an x-ray is required to assist.

Knowing this, the hours for a radiologist can be unpredictable. Working full time has its benefits, but there are also drawbacks. These include things such as long hours and overnight shifts, which are not only possible but likely as you grow in your career.

Physical Stress

Long shifts may leave you on your feet for the majority of the day. Additionally, you may have to lift patients or turn them over to assist them if they can’t do so themselves. When repeated on a daily basis, these actions can be draining and wear one down.

Without proper support or knowledge of body mechanics, the work may be strenuous on your joints over the years. Several injuries may come as a result, like torn ligaments, sprained knees, and back pain. Bend from the knees to minimize risk, and make an effort to stretch before and after your shift to lessen the strain.

While it may be an afterthought while focusing on treating cancer patients and examining a patient’s x-ray, it is imperative to keep an eye on your physical health and listen to your body.

Emotional Trauma and Mental Health Concerns

School can only prepare you for so much. Seeing patients at their worst can take a toll on your mental health. Professionals face patients who have breast cancer, domestic abuse, accidents, and other traumatic incidents that walk through the door.

Most facilities will assign radiologists to different sections of the hospital for their shifts, meaning you could spend your time in the ER witnessing trauma cases. Exposure to these cases can make any radiologist uneasy, no matter how many years they have under their belt.

The mental strain on radiologic technologists in their careers must be monitored to ensure their well-being. Be prepared to talk to licensed professionals should you need help or speak with higher-ups about temporary transfer to another section. If that fails, consider working at a clinic or outpatient imaging center.

Medical Malpractice

Whether it was something missed in an x-ray, a wrong dose, or cancer that developed years after radiation, technicians operate within their scope of practice. While there are policies and regulations in place to protect healthcare workers, people can opt to sue for negligence or malpractice if something goes wrong.

Common sense and situational awareness might help prevent most situations from occurring. There will be times when things are out of your control and the grieving loved ones of a patient turn on you. Remember to stay calm and handle things professionally.

What are the risks of being a radiographer?

As one performing the x-ray, radiographers experience a higher chance of radiation exposure in their career, though only by a little. The amount of radiation from an x-ray is considered to be little, having even less than a one in a million chance of developing cancer in radiology technicians at 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.

That being said, breast cancer risk can be a consequence of long-term overexposure on the job. Following regulations to the letter and maintaining your equipment will make you less likely to face increased cancer risk throughout your career.

Conclusion

There are dangers involved with being a radiology technician, such as cancer risk and radiation exposure. However, properly following safety regulations and using modern technology may make risks like cancer development less threatening over the years. New radiology technologists need to understand these risks and come prepared to work each day in their desired career.