Why was the radiology assistant position created? Prior to 2002, there was only the position of radiologic technologist and radiology technicians, aside from the licensed radiologist, as part of the diagnostic imaging team. As the population continued to age and technological advancements to diagnose medical conditions increased, job opportunities grew. Yet, the number of workers dropped. It was an industry concern that needed to be addressed quickly.
How Much Can you Earn?
Technicians in the field of radiology felt there was little chance of advancement in their career. This was the primary reason why they searched for better opportunities in the health care field, in particularly training to become a nurse practitioner or a physician assistant. Learning new imaging modalities was the only kind of advancement offered but in terms of progressing to a higher level of responsibilities, there was little growth possibilities.
Thus was born the radiology assistant. These professionals are trained to work more closely with the radiologist, and aside from assisting with more advanced imaging procedures, are also trained to make preliminary observations on images taken, although not on an official capacity. Instead, they prepare the reports stating the quality of images, their observations, and offering possible treatment, which help the radiologist tremendously in his job.
The advanced level of duties and responsibilities also gave them recognition for their abilities and capabilities as a member of the diagnostic imaging team, including better compensation. Today, the average radiology assistant salary is $95,000 to $100,000. At the entry level, they can make a minimum of $80,000.
Who Can Become a RA?
The minimum eligibility requirements to become a radiology assistant come in the form of training and experience. To qualify for an advance level position, you need specialized education. So the first thing required for admission into any of the radiology assistant programs in a university or college is work experience as a radiologic technologist — at least for one year. This means you already have prior training to have qualified for the job and are a registered radiologic technologist (RRT).
With the experience component complied with, you then need to complete at least a bachelors degree program in radiology assistance from any of the accredited radiology assistant schools. The American Registry of Radiology Technologists is very specific that the curriculum includes a certain number of didactic and clinical training that must be completed. Clinical components must be supervised by a radiologist mentor/preceptor. More importantly, a student is required to maintain, during the entire training, a portfolio that documents all competencies and experiences.
The culmination of your educational preparation is the five-hour exam administered by the ARRT to become a registered radiology assistant. Ace this and you’re ready to be the right hand man of the radiologist, working in a hospital, private clinic and other medical facilities.
What Are your Tasks as a Radiology Assistant?
In your new position, you still get to do things you performed as radiologic technologist, including preparing patients for diagnostic imaging procedures and explaining it to them. Positioning, manipulating and actually operating the equipment are still your job. But this time, you are called to do more, sometimes just supervised by the radiologist or assisting him directly. And you are now tasked to prepare reports for patients following each procedure.
The importance of your role in the team cannot be overemphasized, particularly because it lessens the burden on the primary physician. So it is critical that you are able to work individually and as a team player, are organized and detail-oriented, and have excellent communication skills to help put patients at ease.
Whether you are looking at the xray of a lung, observing septal thickening or seeing nodules, the complexity of your responsibilities has increased. But you are guaranteed both the respect and proper remuneration as a professional and your invaluable contribution to health care because of what you do. If you want to take the next step in diagnostic imaging, then consider becoming a radiology assistant.