What does a Diagnostic Radiographer do?

Rachel Burkot

A diagnostic radiographer prepares patients, takes x-rays and makes a diagnosis based on an x-ray. These radiographers are trained to administer and interpret x-rays, form treatment plans and assist with intervention processes such as the removal of kidney stones. Diagnostic radiographers work closely with clinicians and other doctors to assist with tasks.

An X-ray taken by a diagnostic radiographer.
An X-ray taken by a diagnostic radiographer.

A diagnostic radiographer is responsible for positioning the patient, setting up the x-ray machine and studying the results. Most radiographers take x-rays of patients’ chests and spines. The radiographer may work with an x-ray technician to ensure that accurate results are taken. Additional technology that diagnostic radiographers often use include fluoroscopy, which photographs the digestive system, computed tomography (CT), which allows sections of the body to be viewed as slices, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which provides a look at the body’s tissues, an ultrasound, which checks circulation and proper functioning of the heart, and angiography, which monitors blood vessels.

A diagnostic radiographer reviews X-rays.
A diagnostic radiographer reviews X-rays.

To become a diagnostic radiographer, a person must have a high school education and complete a series of courses approved by state diagnostic radiology departments. Courses are offered at colleges or hospitals nationwide, and the curriculum lasts two years. After completing the coursework, an examination from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) must be passed before a license from the Bureau of Radiological Health is granted to practice in the field. Every two years, twenty-four hours of continuing education classes must be taken by the diagnostic radiographer.

A diagnostic radiographer may use an MRI to help diagnose an illness or injury.
A diagnostic radiographer may use an MRI to help diagnose an illness or injury.

Diagnostic radiographers can have medical jobs, health care jobs or hospital jobs and typically work in a hospital or other health care facility such as a clinic. In a hospital, a radiographer will generally work in an imaging or radiology department. He or she deals with accident victims, patients needing emergency care and outpatients. Collaboration with patient care and health teams is essential for providing the most relevant care, so a diagnostic radiographer should get along well with others and feel comfortable working with a team.

A diagnostic radiographer’s first task is an initial assessment of the patient. Radiographic examinations are performed to determine specialized care. The radiographer will then assist the diagnostic radiologist with more specific, intense exams. It is the responsibility of the diagnostic radiographer to position the patient and prepare him or her for each test, which necessitates an ability to remain calm so the patient will take the cue. The radiographer must also monitor changes in the patient and report these to the radiologist or other doctor.

Most radiographers take x-rays of patients' chests and spines.
Most radiographers take x-rays of patients' chests and spines.

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Discussion Comments


I think you mean to say the Radiologist makes the diagnosis, not the technologist. The Radiographer sets up the equipment and positions the patient and produces a diagnostic image but diagnosing images are out of our scope of practice.


@Azuza - I'm no expert, but I imagine that an M.D. or a nurse practitioner probably makes the final diagnosis. It seems crazy to me that someone without years of specialized schooling could be qualified to actually diagnose an illness.


Wow! I had no idea that any medical professional besides a doctor or a nurse practitioner could actually diagnose a patient. Live and learn, I guess.

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