X-ray technologist

Emily, 25, is an X-ray technologist at a Hamilton, Ontario hospital. She received a Certificate in Pre-health Science, which allowed her to continue into the Medical Radiation Technology program at Fanshawe College. When she was eligible for employment as an x-ray technologist in Ontario, she moved to the city of Hamilton to begin a new job in her field.

Sarah: What made you decide to become an X-ray technologist?
Emily: I first found out about the program from a brochure that I got from my high school guidance counsellor. I knew I wanted to do something in the area of healthcare because I enjoy working with people. I then found out about the Pre-health Science program offered at Fanshawe College.

I wasn’t sure that I wanted to take the Medical Radiation Technology program at first, but after taking the Pre-health Science Program, I was fairly certain it was for me.

I also worked at a local hospital in the Diagnostic Imaging department prior to my first year in the X-ray program. It was through a student program in which the government pays for part of your wage. It was of a 10-week duration during which time I was able to see the flow of an x-ray department, and what the job entailed.

Sarah: What do you like the most about what you do?
Emily: I enjoy working with people mostly, and also the hospital environment. I also enjoy that it is so technology dependent, and there are always new technologies coming out that make things more interesting. There are always new situations and challenges that you face daily to keep things interesting.

Sarah: What is your least favorite part of your job?
Emily: Sometimes you can be quite busy and you need to complete your exams in a timely fashion. This means less time spent with the patients and a slightly stressful environment.

Sarah: What advice do you have for someone considering becoming an X-ray technologist?
Emily: I would advise them to try and spend some time in an Imaging department to make sure they would enjoy it. Many hospitals will allow someone interested in the field to come in and see how the department runs for a day. I would also advise them to take their Sciences in high school in order to be eligible for the program.

Sarah: Do you need to go through any post-secondary education for this career?
Emily: Yes. I took the Pre-health Science Program, which gave me a certificate. I had to take this program to branch out further into any of the healthcare programs such as Paramedic, Respiratory Therapy, Medical Radiation Technology (my program), Nursing, and Dental Hygiene.

Each program has a minimum grade you need to be eligible for the program. I then went from that program into the M.R.T. program. It is a three-year program and you graduate with a diploma. This, however, is changing into a four-year degree and diploma program. Most schools have already changed to this format. Every school structures their program differently.

Fanshawe College is formatted into three semesters of school, and then 15 months continuous clinical placement. Then, after completion of the clinical portion you go back to school for a six-week review and testing period.

In order to be an x-ray technologist, you have to write a national exam with the Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists. Once you pass this exam, and register with the College of M.R.T.s, you are legally allowed to work in Ontario. Some provinces do not have a regulatory college, so it is different for them.

Sarah: What kind of outlook do you see for the career of X-ray technology in the near future?
Emily: There are lots of jobs available. Some positions are casual, meaning you are filling in for shifts that couldn’t be filled. Some areas of Ontario need more technologists than others. There is a high demand in Toronto, and places up North.

I am not sure what the outlook is like in the future, but I do know that usually you may have to work casually to begin with, get your foot in the door, and move up the ladder as more positions become available.

Sarah: For you personally, do you plan to branch out into related areas? Is there any opportunity for advancement in your workplace?
Emily:One of the reasons I love this field is that there are so many different opportunities. Once you start in General Radiography you can branch into C.T. (“cat scan” - detailed cross-sectional images), Interventional Radiography or Angiography (examining the heart, blood vessels and blood flow), mammography (breast screening for cancer), teaching positions, different management positions, and also technical aspects (PACS - many x-ray departments are now filmless - PACS is a storage system used so that patient images can be viewed at different locations via a computer monitor).

Sarah: What is a typical workday or shift like for you?
Emily: As an entry-level technologist you are most likely going to be working a variety of shifts including afternoons, nights and some weekends. As a general technologist you work in a variety of areas.

You could be in places such as the Operating Room, doing portables around the hospital for patients that are too sick to be brought down to the department, working in the main department with x-ray patients from Emergency, inpatients and outpatients, and also working in fracture clinics doing recheck x-rays for patients who have had broken bones or orthopaedic devices (like hip and knee replacements) put in.

Also, in some hospitals, the technologists work in Gastrics, which are various exams that look at the digestive canal by using a type of x-ray “dye” to see the different organs (as in Barium enemas).