Medical radiation technologists (NOC 3215)

About this job

This occupational group includes technologists who operate radiographic and radiation therapy equipment to give radiation treatment and produce images of body structures for the diagnosis and treatment of injury and disease. Medical radiation technologists who are supervisors or instructors are included in this group.

People in this occupation:

  • work in hospitals, cancer treatment centres, clinics, radiological laboratories, research and education facilities, and in equipment sales and service and training
  • should have an interest in science and technology
  • need to be detail-oriented, patient and able to apply good problem-solving, critical-thinking and organizational skills
  • use computers for electronic imaging in most facilities
  • must be able to work well as part of a team and communicate effectively (to both co-workers and patients)
  • need to work compassionately with patients who have acute and chronic illnesses
Common job titles
  • co-ordinator, clinical - radiography
  • co-ordinator, technical - nuclear medicine
  • director, technical - nuclear medicine
  • RTT (radiation therapy technologist)
  • supervisor, medical radiation
  • technician, therapeutic - radiological
  • co-ordinator, clinical - radiography
  • co-ordinator, technical - nuclear medicine
  • director, technical - nuclear medicine
  • instructor, clinical - radiation therapy
  • operator, x-ray machine operator - medical
  • radiographer, chief / medical

Duties

Medical radiation technologists are divided into three groups: radiological technologists, nuclear medicine technologists and radiation therapists. All occupations in this group provide patient appropriate care throughout procedures and the treatment process. The specialized duties for these occupations are described below.

Special duties

Radiological technologists:

  • operate X-ray, radiographic and fluoroscopic equipment, computerized tomography (CT) scanners, mammography units or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to produce radiographs or anatomic images of the human body for the diagnosis by radiologists of disease or injury
  • record and process patient data, do basic verification and quality control checks on radiographic and film processing equipment, provide appropriate care for patients during the radiographic examination and apply radiation protection measures
  • Explain procedures, position patient and equipment and apply radiation protection measures
  • may also train and supervise student radiographers or supervise other radiological technologists
  • may specialize in areas such as computerized tomography, angiography, mammography, magnetic resonance imaging, interventional radiology, dosimetry, stereotaxy or brachytherapy

Nuclear medicine technologists:

  • prepare radiopharmaceuticals such as radionuclides and give them to patients or biological samples
  • operate radiation detection equipment, such as gamma cameras, scanners, scintillation counters, tomodensitometers and ionization chambers to acquire data for use by nuclear medicine physicians in the diagnosis of disease
  • do diagnostic procedures using radioactive materials on biological specimens, such as blood and urine
  • record and process the results of procedures, check equipment to make sure it operates properly, provide appropriate care for patients during examinations and apply radiation protection measures
  • may also train and supervise student nuclear medicine technologists or supervise other nuclear medicine technologists

Radiation therapists:

  • operate linear accelerators, cobalt 60, X-ray and other radiation therapy equipment to give radiation treatment prescribed by radiation oncologists
  • check radiation therapy equipment to make sure it operates properly and help radiation oncologists and clinical physicists with preparation of radiation treatment plans
  • help prepare sealed radioactive materials such as cobalt, radium, cesium and isotopes
  • help build devices such as plaster casts and acrylic moulds to assist with radiation treatments
  • monitor patients' physical and psychological well-being during the entire course of treatment and advise patients regarding the side effects of radiation
  • may also train and supervise student radiotherapy technologists or supervise other radiotherapy technologists
  • may specialize in dosimetry, stereotaxy and brachytherapy

Work environment

Medical radiation technologists typically work 37–40 hours per week. Those working in hospitals often rotate shifts, may work on weekends and holidays and can often expect to be on call in case of an emergency. Part-time work is also available.

The work is generally highly technical and mentally demanding. Most medical radiation technologists are employed in clean, bright and well-ventilated settings. They work at diagnostic machines and electronic imaging/digital archive systems, but workers also spend about half of their time working with patients.

Physical stamina is important since these workers are on their feet for long periods and may have to lift or turn patients. Workers may also have to move overhead equipment.

Although radiation hazards exist, they are reduced by the use of lead aprons, gloves and other shielding devices, as well as by instruments monitoring radiation exposure. Medical radiation technologists wear badges that measure radiation levels and detailed records of their overall lifetime dose are kept. As a result, radiation exposure is extremely low. With the phasing out of film processors in favour of electronic imaging, most technologists are no longer exposed to chemicals and fumes.

Insights from industry

While most new job openings will come from job creation, there will be also be a considerable number of jobs available due to the need to replace retiring workers.

The growing demand for health-care services will increase job opportunities for medical radiation technologists. Population growth, an aging population and technological advances in diagnosis and treatment are contributing to the demand for X-rays, CT, MRI, nuclear medicine tests and other diagnostic procedures. Advances in radiation-based diagnostics and treatments may also increase the need for these services.

Industry sources report current worker shortages throughout the Lower Mainland, along with a higher need for casual workers on Vancouver Island.

For those seeking work in hospital settings, full-time positions are difficult to find when starting a career. However, there will be plenty of on-call and part-time opportunities.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

With sufficient work experience and training, medical radiation technologists can advance to supervisory positions in radiography, fluoroscopy, nuclear medicine, CT scan and MRI fields. Some may also pursue positions as clinical instructors or start their own businesses.

Additional resources