By Sara Phillips, BS, RT, R, MR, M – Lead MRI Technologist at Southwest Health
Ever wonder what it takes to work with those big, expensive machines that take pictures of people’s insides? Or what kind of training you need to have to get through all of those secured doors? My interest in Radiology began when I was in high school. I had actually already decided to go to nursing school. I had been working in a nursing home as a CNA through high school when I had the opportunity to job shadow my cousin, who is a radiologic technologist. After that, I was hooked. I liked the idea of getting to do patient care and helping assist in medical treatment.
Those interested in getting started in radiology should first consider researching Associate or Bachelor Degree programs. From these programs you enter into a Radiologic Technologist (or Rad Tech) program which will take approximately 24 months to complete and consist of off-campus clinical studies followed by an exam to become certified. Rad Techs do not read the radiology images or interpret results. That job is done by a Medical Doctor who specializes in radiology, called a Radiologist. Our job is to produce the high-quality images that will provide the Radiologist with the information he or she needs in order to confirm a diagnosis.
There are many components to the radiology field. As a Rad Tech, you can specialize in mammography, nuclear medicine, computed tomography (CT), bone density, ultrasound, registered radiologist assistant, radiation therapy, interventional radiology, or cardiovascular radiology. After I completed the Rad Tech program I decided to specialize in MRI, and 14 years later I still love it!
MRI stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging. This name comes from how it captures images. MRI uses a powerful constant magnetic field and radio waves to see inside the body, unlike CT scanners and X-rays, which use radiation. And MRI pictures are extremely precise. So precise that physicians can often get as much information from MRI as they would from looking directly at the tissue. Because of this, MRI images can be used to diagnose: brain and nervous system disorders, cardiovascular disease, cancer, organ diseases, and musculoskeletal problems. Many of these can even be detected in their earliest stages.
I enjoy the physics behind how the magnet works and computer technology that goes with it. But mostly, I enjoy my patient interaction. I love to be able to make a connection with patients while also helping diagnose what may be ailing them. MRI scans can also be very nerve-racking for patients. Some patients that suffer from claustrophobia do not enjoy having an MRI. I do my very best to instill a sense of trust in my patients, assuring them along the way that I am here to help them through their exam. I can offer music to listen to or just talking to them between sets of images. An average MRI scan takes approximately 30 minutes to complete.
During my career at Southwest, I have been able to further my knowledge of radiology and become certified in mammography, too. The great bonus about working in a rural hospital is the ability to specialize in multiple areas in the radiology field.
If you’re interested in becoming a Rad Tech or any other healthcare career, I highly recommend job shadowing! There are many possibilities and opportunities to grow in the radiology field which helps keep the job interesting throughout the career. For more information on job shadowing or healthcare careers contact Human Resources at Southwest Health at (608) 342-4796.