A radiologist is a health care provider that has specific training in taking medical pictures, images and x-rays and interpreting them medically. These various pictures can be taken via a number of different processes including but not limited to:
- Nuclear Medicine
- Sound Waves
- Radioactive Substances
- And Many More…
Just about all doctors take care of patients, including diagnosing based on medical backgrounds, figuring out illnesses, giving out medicines and helping people that are hurt or diseased. Even though so many doctors do all these things, only a very tiny percentage of doctors are imaging experts. Not many specialize in radiology and reading x-ray images. In fact, the American Medical Association says less than two percent do. Radiologists have to look over images and figure out how they relate to other conditions, tests and situations. They also have to communicate with the referring physicians, order other tests and even treat patients via radiation where oncology is concerned. Sometimes a radiologist will use pictures or images to help with image-led surgery. There are many different ways that radiologists help keep patients safe and well.
Just as other doctors must graduate from a medical school and earn an MD, radiologists must do the same. He also has to pass an exam and be fully licensed, work for one year under an internship and completed their residency in radiology. Four years of graduate school is standard in medical education. Once they have finished this, radiologists might want to enter another program of learning called a fellowship. This allows for specialized study in a particular area of radiology.
The American Board of Radiology (medical doctors) and American Osteopathic Board of Radiology (osteopathic doctors) are the examining forces behind this area of medicine, and they provide board certification for radiologists upon completion of all requirements and passed exams.
Diagnostic Radiologists and their Subspecialties
Many radiologists end up specializing in specific subspecialties after getting certified. This is done by participating in tons of studies, clinical work, research and study. Here are some subspecialties that are often chosen and in demand:
Breast imaging is when you specialize in diagnosing and obtaining images of the breasts. There are many breast diseases and conditions that are dependent on this subspecialty to care for and diagnose them. These physicians also work with mammography, ultrasounds of the breasts and MRIs. They also participate in taking breast biopsy when it is deemed necessary for diagnosing.
This includes x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, MRIs and various other tests of the heart, vessels and lymphatic system. Viewing the heart arteries, veins and various pathways of blood flow is very important to keeping a heart patient healthy. This is a very important diagnostic area of radiology.
This includes the chest, heart, lungs and surrounding area. Radiology of the chest is vital to diagnosing diseases of the chest. CT and CAT scans are common as are Ultrasounds, MRIs and typical x-rays. When biopsy of the lung is needed or fluid needs to be drained, chest radiology is vital.
If you are working in the emergency room as a radiologist, you will face many traumatic and non-traumatic emergency situations to deal with. All the various x-rays and various procedures can become life and death when trauma is involved so you must be able to think on your feet. This is a very high impact subspecialty of radiology.
The stomach as well as abdomen and intestines are the focus of Gastric Radiologists. This is involving diagnosing based on images obtained by x-rays, CT scans, Ultrasounds, MRI and CAT scans among others. You also could be doing biopsy procedures of these areas or draining fluid. All manner of stomach problems are addressed by these various methods of imaging.
This is the diagnosis and treatment of specific organs of the reproductive system and urinary tracts. You might be taking x-rays or even doing procedures like biopsy, uterine fibroid elimination and kidney treatments. All of these things can come up during your career as a Genitourinary radiologist.
Head and Neck Radiologists
This is devoted to imaging of the head, neck and brain. It can be focused on any part of the upper neck and head, and it includes CT or CAT scans, Ultrasounds, MRIs and various other procedures. This is a very common subspecialty.
When imaging muscles, bones and skeletons, you are specializing in the musculoskeletal radiological field. All the various x-rays can be used and this is a very common subspecialty of radiology. Bones break and muscles tear, leaving these folks with plenty of work to do on a daily basis.
This is all about diagnosing the brain, nerves, neck, spine and head. It is extremely technical in nature and one of the more challenging subspecialties that are out there. Needless to say, all types of radiology imaging systems are used to produce results.
This is all about finding and diagnosing diseases of children. This is done through imaging via x-ray, CT scan, CAT scan, MRI and ultrasounds. It also could involve any number of various procedures such as fluoroscopy and abscess collection. Biopsy is common as well and would be done by this specialist.
Angiography, biopsy procedures, line insertion and tube placement, uterine fibroid removal and angioplasty all fall into this category or diagnosing via minimally invasive procedures. These are often done via x-rays, Ultrasounds, MRI and CT scans. While imaging and diagnosing is important, treatments are also a key area of the subspecialty.
A nuclear radiologist is all about dealing with small amounts of radioactive materials. The imaging sources include PET and PET/CT and is used to diagnose and treat via images of the heart, organs, skeleton, kidney, lungs, glands and anything else that might need treating. Treatments are also many and include various cancers. Gamma imaging is common.
This is all about treating cancer with radiation and is one of the tougher areas to work in. Sometimes this is done via injection and sometimes it is done via sources outside the body. Whatever the case, it is a very important subspecialty of radiology that needs more doctors on board.
These folks are referred to as RAs and they are technologists that are supervised by a licensed radiologist. Their job is to help out and assist with tasks of an advanced nature and to do exams when called upon. They execute x-rays of various forms and are responsible for gathering information about patients. They also serve as a helper to the radiologist on invasive procedures. The RA also will make certain that images are of good enough quality and forwarding any suspicions to the radiologist that is overseeing the department. RAs are invaluable in helping the department to function efficiently.
Radiation Assistants can do more than Radiologic techs, but they are still somewhat limited as to what they are allowed to do. They can’t draft and turn in official interpretations of scans, for example, and they have to run everything through the radiologist in charge. They are allowed to make basic observations but can’t communicate those to patients. There are various procedures that they are not allowed to do outside of being supervised by the radiologist.
The position is actually new and not many programs exist in the United States. Currently there are ten radiology assistant programs and about half of them offer master’s degrees. Radiologist assistants do have to go through an internship and advanced schooling, and they have to be certified as well. The board is called the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. You can visit their web page for more information on a career in this field.
The technologist is generally the person that works directly with the patient to get the images and operate the equipment. These folks are helpers to the radiologist and can be an extension of their hands. It requires a calm demeanor that communicates with the patient and keeps them relaxed throughout the procedures. RTs spend time making certain the images are taken correctly by positioning the patient, keeping them calm, keeping them informed and even using various using specific equipment to ensure accurate pictures. They also control exposure and ensure that the minimum exposure is done in a given x-ray. The use of lead shields are part of this and it also limits exposure. Sometimes the Radiologic Technologist has to go mobile for emergency room work and may have to work with any number of specific x-rays or imaging methods. Each of these imaging methods can be a specific subspecialty even among RTs.
These technologists are usually trained for a minimum of two years, and often have four or more years of training. Most hold an associates, bachelor’s or more advanced degree. They have to stay registered with the ARRT and techs have to complete education credits. If you want to work as a tech, contact the American Society of Radiologic Technologist.
Though the position is not as common as RTs, some of the bigger places have radiological nurses to help various ways. They often deal directly with patients and help them to put together a care plan for whatever disease is diagnosed. Recuperation is also a big part of the nurse’s duties in radiology, as many of the procedures are difficult in the days following. Sometimes they have to help the families with various things as well.
Radiologic Nurses have all the same requirements that all others have, so it is not uncommon for specialists to work in more than one area. They are able to do a great deal of things, so they are