Due to technological advancements that have occurred over the past decade, there has been an increase in radiology careers which basically focus on medical imaging. To facilitate this kind of imaging, modern equipments which utilize technologies such as magnetic imaging, digital imagery and radioactive materials are applied. With the imaging results obtained through radiologists, doctors are able to diagnose different diseases more accurately and in a less invasive manner. So what is a radiologist’s job description?
Radiologist Job Description
Radiologists are physicians who performs and interprets diagnostic imaging tests and interventional procedures or treatments that involve the use of X-ray, ultrasound, and magnetic resonance imaging equipment. People often confuse between radiologists and radiologic technologists/radiology technicians, though there is a clear distinction between these two: technicians carry out the process of obtaining the images whereas radiologists take charge of interpreting the results. After the images are interpreted, the information is used by other medical professionals in diagnosing the patient and developing a suitable treatment plan.
Radiological procedures are generally carried out for medical purposes, though they may also be used in conducting comprehensive image guided processes that help in treating cardiovascular disease among other health issues. While radiologists do not provide treatment, they work together with surgeons, physicians and other professionals in the medical field. Other medical occupations call for frequent interaction with patients, but radiologists mostly work in their office, and collaborate with other healthcare professionals while dealing less directly with the patients.
Radiologists job duties include:
- Examine different images including mammograms, CT scans, x-rays, MRI scans and ultrasounds
- Read reports and record results for review by physicians
- Diagnose patient illnesses
- Recommend and discuss treatment options with other physicians
- Work alongside radiologic technologists/radiology technicians and other health professionals in administering treatment
- Examine patients and record medical histories,
- They may at times prescribe medication and carry out other duties of a regular physician
- Administer nuclear medicine, oncology, or other radiation techniques to treat patients with illnesses or diseases
Although the normal medical personnel have to be physically present to perform their duties, radiologists enjoy more flexibility in their work. They can read scans from wherever they are through computers connected to the hospital networks. Also, since they carry out a lot of their work on computers, in most cases, they never have to report for work in the late night hours like other physicians. Even so, these professionals still need to be at the work site on either part time or full time basis as required by their employers.
Types of Radiology
There are three types of radiology – diagnostic, interventional and therapeutic (called radiation oncology).
Diagnostic imaging utilizes plain X-ray radiology, computerised tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound and nuclear medicine imaging techniques to procure images. These images are interpreted to aid in disease diagnoses.
Interventional radiologists carry out both treatment and diagnose of diseases using imaging equipment. These radiologists may sub-specialise further in either neurointervention or angiointervention. Neurointervention is the treatment of abnormalities of the brain or spinal cord, while angiointervention is the treatment of the blood vessels elsewhere in the body. Interventional radiology is a minimally invasive image-guided procedures , usually performed using needles and narrow plastic tubes called catheters.
Radiation oncology uses radiation to treat diseases such as cancer, using radiation therapy. These specialists are also known as radiation oncologists.
Similar to regular doctors, radiologists have to possess an in-depth knowledge of human anatomy and medical principles that relate to human health. Apart from that, they also have to be well versed with technology since they are required to work with computers frequently. In addition, they must be keen on detail, and they must possess excellent analytical skills. Even though radiologists hardly interact with patients, they still need to posses good interpersonal skills to enable them work comfortably with other healthcare professionals as they develop treatment arrangements for patients.
How to Become a Radiologist
Anyone thinking of taking up radiology as their career of choice has to begin their education with 4 years of undergraduate instruction to acquire a bachelor’s degree. After this, they need to study for another 4 years in medical school to get a medical degree (Doctor of Medicine). After completion of medical school, students take an extra four years in diagnostic radiology residency training through the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP). While training, a radiologist may also take an additional 1 to 3 years to focus on sub specialization in areas such as mammography, neuroradiology, muscular skeletal, body imaging and interventional radiology. Though, this extra stage is not mandatory. This essentially means that radiologists have to meet the same requirements as those set for medical doctors.
Radiology is a very competitive specialty. Thus, to be able to compete for the available residencies, one has to excel academically. While radiology is already a specialty in medical studies, radiologists can choose to focus on specific areas in the course of their training. Such sub specialties may include chest radiology, breast imaging, neuroradiology, pediatric radiology, emergency radiology and radiation oncology.
Professionals practicing in radiology must hold a medical degree from an accredited institution. Also, they must have a state issued medical license, and in addition, they have to pass a certification exam. The certificates obtained have to be specific to their area of focus. Employers may also require a radiologist to be certified by the board, and to get this certification, radiologists have to go through an examination that covers medicine, modalities, anatomy and physics.
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Radiologist Job Description Summary
- Interpret images obtained through medical imaging equipment
- Work with surgeons and other specialists
- 4 year bachelor’s degree
- 4 year medical school program
- 4 additional years of residency program
- 1 to 3 additional years for sub specialization (not mandatory)
- Must be licensed to practice
- 18% employment growth by 2022