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What does a Radiologist Assistant do?

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  • Written By: Stacy Taylor
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2018
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A radiologist assistant (RA), or advanced level radiologist technologist, is a health care worker. He or she specializes in a field of medical science that uses X-rays and other forms of penetrating radiation. As defined by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), a radiologist assistant helps enhance patient care by assisting in the diagnostic imaging environment. RAs are not physicians but they work under the supervision of a radiologist. Working within that definition, RAs perform an assortment of administrative and patient care tasks as instructed by the supervising radiologist.

RAs have a number of common administrative responsibilities including performing assessments, reviewing medical records, and overseeing patient education. Patient care responsibilities may include evaluating patients post and pre-procedure, assisting with invasive procedures, and performing non-invasive fluoroscopy and similar procedures under the radiologist’s supervision. In addition to these tasks, a radiologist assistant may also evaluate diagnostic image quality, make image observations, and forward reports to his or her supervisor.

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A successful radiologist assistant must be courteous and comfortable working with patients who are chronically ill or injured. He or she must also be able to safely work with a wide range of equipment such as X-ray units, fluoroscopic systems, mammography systems, MRI machines, and additional diagnostic imaging equipment. Strict adherence to the guidelines and policies associated with this equipment is crucial as many of these systems can pose a health risk to unprotected workers. A career in this field may also require overall good health and vision to accommodate long hours, frequent standing and walking, and performing tasks in low-light conditions.

In the United States, the need for RAs is on the rise due to a radiology workforce shortage that began in the 1990s. In March 2002, in response to a council resolution by the Task Force on Human Resources, the radiologist assistant position was formed to help fill in the gaps in this field. This workforce shortage, combined with an increasing number of radiology procedures conducted, makes this one of the world’s most promising and fastest growing health care careers. In some cases, medical institutions actively recruit for the radiology field, which includes radiologist assistants, technologists, and technicians.

Generally, educational programs for RAs provide a baccalaureate degree and usually include a clinical practice term directed by a radiologist. In the US, graduates usually take an RA certification exam that is provided by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Even after that is complete, continuing education requirements are imposed on US RAs in order to maintain their ARRT registration.

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