X-Ray technicians perform diagnostic imaging procedures. If you have ever had an X-Ray, CAT scan, MRI or mammogram, your procedure likely was performed by an X-Ray technician. Physicians frequently rely on X-Ray technicians to diagnose health issues. Like any profession, this one has its pros and cons.
The work of X-ray technicians can be physically demanding, says the U.S. Department of Labor. Technicians usually spend long periods of time on their feet. Sometimes they must lift disabled or unconscious patients. Some technicians are required to climb flights of stairs several times to travel from room to room in a hospital.
X-Ray technicians perform procedures on patients of all ages, from infants to the elderly. These patients are not always easy to deal with. “It can be difficult to perform a procedure on a child who is scared or in pain,” says Cathy Meeks, an X-Ray technician at Kings Daughters Medical Center in Ashland, Ky. Elderly patients who suffer from dementia pose a particular challenge because they don't always understand the procedures or directions from the technician.
There is a risk of radiation exposure from the equipment technicians use. This risk is lowered when technicians use shielding devices such as lead aprons and gloves, the Department of Labor says. Technicians are required to wear badges that measure the levels of exposure in the area. Records are kept to monitor technicians’ cumulative lifetime dose of radiation.
On the upside, the Occupational Outlook Handbook, available on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' handbook, says employment for X-Ray technicians will grow faster than average for all occupations. This is a career with plenty of job security. Demand varies by region, the Department of Labor says. Some areas might be saturated with technicians, while others have a shortage. It's a good idea to research markets to learn where demand is high.
There are several avenues for advancement in the X-Ray technician field. Technicians can become specialists in different types of imaging. This is necessary due to the different types of equipment used for different specialities. Technicians can also train to become assistants to radiologists. Experienced technicians might be promoted to chief leaders, department heads or even directors, the Department of Labor says. Some hospitals will even provide training that is needed for advancement, but others may require a degree from a college or university.