X-ray technicians operate pieces of equipment that capture images of the inner recesses of the human body. These images are developed on x-ray film or diagnostically via fluoroscopic screens. X-ray technicians help position patients prior to taking an x-ray; they perform procedures with expensive imaging machines; and they prepare documentation for physicians.
The terms x-ray technician and x-ray technologist are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference between the two careers. An x-ray technician can perform a couple intricate procedures that aid in the diagnosis of a patient. These procedures include:
A technologist, on the other hand, can perform:
Another difference between an x-ray technician and an x-ray technologist is their level of education. Individuals can become an x-ray technician in a couple of years by earning an associate's degree. Aspiring x-ray technologists, however, must attend a four-year program, plus additional training. Individuals can start out as x-ray technicians, and then go back to school to advance their careers as x-ray technologists.
Prior to performing an x-ray exam, x-ray technicians prepare patients by explaining the procedure and positioning the patient so specific parts of his or her body can be x-rayed. Also, because the patient is exposed to radiation during an exam, the x-ray technician place lead shields on the patient in order to reduce radioactive exposure. They also use a tool like a tape measure to determine the size of the area that needs x-rayed, and then adjust the controls, height, and angle of the x-ray machine accordingly.
A CT scan uses ionizing radiation, so technologists must employ the same safety precautions as with an x-ray machine. However, unlike an x-ray exam, a CT scan produces a three-dimensional image of the human body via cross-sectional x-rays. Like a CT scan, MRIs also produce three-dimensional images, but it does not use radiation to capture the image. Non-ionizing radio frequencies are used to produce the image in an MRI.