What Is a Diagnostic Radiologic Technologist?

Wanda Marie Thibodeaux

A diagnostic radiologic technologist is a medical professional who uses radiology techniques to create images of body structures or administer treatment for diseases and conditions. Members of the health industry consider a diagnostic radiologic technologist to be a middle-level radiology worker, because he is above a radiologic technician but below a radiologic assistant in responsibility level and education or experience.

Diagnostic radiologic technologists scan patients to provide images of the body.
Diagnostic radiologic technologists scan patients to provide images of the body.

During the course of a normal day, a main duty of a diagnostic radiologic technologist is to operate radiology equipment. For example, he might work with an X-ray, ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine. Employers expect the technologist to be familiar with all radiology tools. If there is a problem with the equipment, the technologist must alert others on the radiology team, help troubleshoot and assist with the purchase of new equipment. The fact that a diagnostic radiologic technologist relies so heavily on this type of equipment means that he must be comfortable with the technology.

A diagnostic radiologic technologist may work with ultrasound equipment.
A diagnostic radiologic technologist may work with ultrasound equipment.

Radiology tools are patient tools — that is, the technologist cannot do his job without interacting directly with the patient. Subsequently, a technologist also explains procedures to the patient, gathers medical and personal information, and preps and positions the patient for the radiology procedure. The technologist is responsible for using the information gathered to administer the test or radiology dose safely.

Once the diagnostic radiologic technologist has completed work with the patient, he provides results to upper-level members of the radiology team such as the radiologic assistant or the radiologist. Unlike a radiologic assistant who usually specializes in one radiology area, technologists cannot offer unofficial initial judgments of image quality or give preliminary interpretations of results. The technologist is not supposed to release even basic information about the patient or the patient's condition to the public without permission.

Becoming a diagnostic radiologic technologist requires a minimum of two years formal training at an accredited facility, which usually provides a certificate. In an academic setting, the training can be as long as four years and may provide either an associate's or bachelor's degree. Typically, a person with a lower-level radiology certificate or degree needs to work as a technician before he advances to the technologist status; the additional education within the bachelor's degree substitutes for some of the experience the individual otherwise would gain. If desired, the technologist then may receive more advanced training and continue toward radiologic assistant positions.

Certification in radiology is standard for technologists. Technologists can become certified by passing a formal examination administered by the American Registry of Radiology Technologists.

A diagnostic radiologic technologist may administer treatment to patients.
A diagnostic radiologic technologist may administer treatment to patients.

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