On today’s episode of 5 minute radiography
today, we’re going to be talking about some terminology that always ruffles feathers in
our community. Have you ever been called a Radiology Technician
instead of a Radiologic Technologist? I have… all the time! Now if you don’t want to go through the
trouble of explaining this every time it happens to you, feel free to send a link to this episode
to educate people. Let’s break these down. When I was coming up with titles for my book
(eventually titled Becoming a Radiologic Technologist), I knew very well the difference between a
technician and a technologist. And while I had briefly considered simply
using the abbreviated term, “tech” (thinking strictly of search engine optimization), that
even prompted some controversy to the point where someone actually questioned my credentials. There’s no better way to get under some
Radiologic Technologists’ skin than to call them a Technician, whether it be x-ray technician
or radiology technician. It’s a raw spot for some of us because,
at least in the United States, we have struggled as a profession to gain the level of professional
recognition we deserve for our field in many ways. Make no mistake, a Radiologic Technologist
is classified as a Healthcare Professional, much like a Registered Nurse is, going through
the same amount of school to obtain our registration and supporting licenses and certifications. Okay, so we know that, but do you think we’re
being overly-sensitive to the issue? I personally think it depends on the situation,
but let me ask you this; are you so quick to correct someone when they call you a radiologist
or doctor? If not, I suggest you evaluate your motives
for correcting people. Let’s break down the differences between
a “radiology technician”, a “radiologic technologist”, and a “radiologist”. But I’d also like to discuss how we, as
professionals, are responding to these labels in the case of mistaken identity. Let’s look at the term “technician”
by itself. The definition I found is “a person employed
to look after technical equipment or do practical work in a laboratory”. I like to think of a computer technician,
a job I had in school. A computer or PC technician typically builds,
repairs, or troubleshoots problems with computers. A radiology technician could be someone with
an electronics degree or biomedical degree who does not interact with patients, but may
be responsible for repairing x-ray equipment. There’s also another distinction that can
be made regarding the term “radiology technician”. In some states that require state licensure,
like where I am in California, a technician can be distinguished separately from a technologist
in that a technician has received some training to perform certain types of x-ray examinations. These are typically limited to chest x-rays
and extremity exams of the arms and legs. While they are taught how to perform these,
there is typically minimal education regarding radiation physics, which includes a lot of
background information about how x-rays work, and the danger they can impose on human tissue. In other words, they’re taught what to do,
but not why (for the most part). There’s typically no college degree associated
with limited licensure, but there may be a certificate provided upon completion of this
training. A radiologic technologist is a healthcare
professional who is educated, typically at an Associate’s Degree or Bachelor’s Degree
level here in the U.S. We learn how our equipment works, from the
electronic circuitry to quality control testing and QA measures. We also learn anatomy and physiology in greater
detail, how radiation affects living tissue down to the sub-atomic level, and best practices
in technical factor selection and radiation protection. We’re also responsible for higher-dose exams
that not only include the chest and extremity procedures that radiology technicians know
how to perform, but fluoroscopic examinations using live x-ray, more complex examinations
of the cranium, and we have a foundation for advanced modality training for areas outside
of general diagnostic x-ray like CT, interventional radiology (which focuses on peripheral vascular
diagnosis and intervention) and cardiac cath lab (which focuses on diagnosis and intervention
of the heart). A radiologist is a medical physician who goes
through medical school and spends several more years specializing in the field of radiology. They can interpret the exams that technologists
perform like x-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, ultrasound and mammography. They can also specialize in interventional
radiology and treat patients, but they are seen as the highest authority for patient
care in a radiology department. So how should we react when someone calls
us (technologists) a technician or a radiologist? I think there should be a balanced reaction
with this. People in the medical field should be able
to get this right, but most don’t know the difference when they call you a technician,
and while that description is not accurate, don’t let your ego allow you to react too
harshly – especially when you’re trying to promote a level of professionalism. Snapping at someone is not going to allow
progress toward professional recognition. It’s okay to educate people, but with a
balanced approach. I tend to find it flattering when someone
calls me a radiologist… until I remember that they don’t know the difference. I typically say, “well the radiologist is
a doctor, and I’m the technologist, who performs the exams that the radiologist reads”
without a snappy comeback. I actually heard a technologist tell a patient
once, “you need to address me as a technologist, not a technician”. I think we can all agree that kind of response
isn’t in the best interest of the patient, and certainly doesn’t promote professionalism. Your average patient doesn’t care… I’ll say that again. Your patients don’t care. The point is, if your patient calls you a
technician, I would think twice about correcting them. There’s a time and place for every conversation
and to promote your field. You know it’s inaccurate and there’s a
really good chance that your patient isn’t purposefully calling you a technician to offend
you. If I was a patient, who may be nervous about
the lumbar puncture I’m about to undergo or if I’m experiencing some pain that just
won’t go away, the last thing I want to hear is some hospital employee (who’s handling
my care right now) correct my terminology because they have a chip on their shoulder. That’s not going to help any of us progress
with professional recognition. I’m not saying let it slide 100% of the
time, but check your attitude and have some situational awareness before schooling someone
on the difference when you’re at work. If you feel compelled to correct someone in
the moment, do so kindly and professionally. Professional healthcare workers should be
thinking of the patient first, physically and mentally. Feel free to explain the difference outside
of the scope of patient care at your leisure. We really do need to continue promoting our
profession. Take opportunities when you can to educate,
but not at the expense of patient care. I’d love to hear your opinions on this,
and I know there are many, or if you want to share your experiences having this discussion. You can find the show on Instagram and Twitter
@5minRad and you can subscribe to the show on iTunes and your favorite podcatcher. There’s also an interactive Facebook Group
if you’d like to join the discussion there and talk amongst your peers. Feel free to reach out if you’d like to
ask a question or suggest a topic for a future episode. Thanks for listening!