An X-ray technician’s job is to safely and effectively operate radiography equipment to collect data for surgeons, emergency doctors, and other medical professionals.
“It’s fun to interact with doctors, physician assistants, and other staff,” says Linda Barker, a hospital X-ray technician. “And the patients themselves, of course. It’s not an absolute requirement, but I go out of my way to be friendly to these people who are often in pain or distress, and I think they appreciate the human touch, especially since so many people are anxious about all this heavy machinery operated by a person wearing a really bulky, protective lead apron.”
A Typical Workday for an X-Ray Technician
5:30 a.m. Linda arrives at work early to examine the files that came in overnight and calibrate the machinery. Everything seems to be in proper working order.
Linda puts on her protective lead gear and a small instrument that will monitor the amount of radiation that she’s exposed to throughout the day. “This little device will tell me if I get too hot for some reason. In four years, though, that’s never happened. The regulations and lead barriers keep me safe.”
6:00 a.m. The first patient is a little girl who injured her ankle on a merry-go-round; she’s wheeled into the room in a wheelchair. Linda greets the girl, saying, “You want me to look at your ankle, honey?” The girl nods.
Linda carefully raises the girl’s right leg and positions the equipment directly over it at just the right angle and height. She observes all regulations for keeping herself and the patient safe from unnecessary radiation, readies the machine, and tells the girl, “It’s just a big camera. You have to stay very still so I can get a clear picture, okay? Ready?”
Linda sets the controls, takes the X-ray, and praises the brave little girl.
8:00 a.m. Throughout the morning, Linda sees several more patients who’re being examined for bone fractures in various parts of the body: ribs, legs, arms.
10:15 a.m. Linda must take several X-rays of the spinal column, neck, and skull of each of four people involved in a serious car accident.
In each case Linda methodically reviews their files, takes the necessary safety precautions for minimizing radiation exposure, and positions the machinery carefully. A few of the patients are unconscious, so Linda works in silence.
1:00 p.m. Linda assists a doctor by mapping a major artery that the doctor is catheterizing to get through blockage. The patient is being prepared for surgery, and the doctor needs to be sure that the blood vessels are unimpeded.
2:30 p.m. Linda sees another child, this time a toddler who has eaten at least a few dimes and maybe other coins as well. The doctor needs to know what specifically the little boy swallowed. Linda readies the patient and the machine and takes the X-ray. It reveals no less than fourteen coins dispersed through the little boy’s digestive system. The pediatrician examines the X-rays and says, “No half dollars, at least.”
3:00 p.m. Linda goes home.