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Nursing Career Path: What Is a Radiology Nurse?

If you’re interested in becoming a nurse, it’s important to understand the different types of nursing jobs available. Once you pursue your nursing degree, graduate from nursing school, and earn a license in your state, you’ll be a practicing nurse. Nursing is a diverse field. You can work in hospitals, elder care facilities, local schools, and a host of other job sites. By defining your interests early on, you can set yourself up for success in the area of nursing that suits you best.

What Is a Radiology Nurse?

Radiology is an important field to consider when becoming a nurse. Radiology nurses assist patients who need diagnostic imaging procedures or radiation therapy. They’re an integral part of a patient’s treatment process, be it through medical imaging or radiation therapy. By working with doctors and patients, you’ll be helping to properly diagnose injuries and process important medical images that will be used to inform advanced treatment options. Radiology nurses are also referred to as medical imaging nurses.

Before diving into how to become a radiology nurse, it’s important to understand what they do and why they’re important.

What Does a Radiology Nurse Do?

Radiology nurses help patients who need diagnostic procedures completed. This means working with patients who need x-rays, computed tomography scans (CT scans), magnetic resonance imaging scans (MRIs), and ultrasounds. 

While these types of procedures are important for medical imaging and injury diagnosis, some patients undergo radiation therapy to fight advanced illnesses, like cancer. Radiology nurses specialize not only in patient comfort but also in accurate imaging and treatment processes.

Radiology nurses also work closely with other members of a medical imaging or radiation therapy team. This includes physicians, specialists, radiology technicians, and other nurses. This means radiology nurses need to be flexible when working with coworkers, and high patient turnover means they need to adapt to varying patient needs quickly. The main responsibilities of a radiology nurse include assessing, planning, and caring for patients who are in diagnostic and therapeutic procedures.

Based on the complex and changing advancements in radiology technology, it’s important for radiology nurses to have advanced education in important nursing areas. Radiology nurses may also be subject to on-going schooling in order to stay abreast of the latest developments in medical technology.

Diagnostic Radiology vs Radiation Therapy (Oncology)

An important distinction to understand for prospective radiology nurses is the difference between diagnostic radiology and radiation therapy. The primary responsibilities of a radiation nurse will vary widely based on the type of work. Diagnostic radiology includes all medical imaging from simple x-rays to MRIs. 

Nurses work to support the radiologist’s diagnostic plan by providing patient care and assisting with accurate imaging procedures. Diagnostic radiology is a dynamic field with high patient turnover and constant collaboration with coworkers. It’s also a very broad category of work for a nurse.

If you’re interested, fields in diagnostic radiology for nurses to pursue careers include:

  • Breast imaging
  • Cardiovascular radiology
  • Emergency radiology
  • Chest radiology
  • Gastrointestinal radiology
  • Genitourinary radiology
  • Head and neck radiology
  • Musculoskeletal radiology
  • Neuroradiology
  • Nuclear radiology

Radiation therapy is a much different field compared to diagnostic radiology. Radiation therapy is used to fight advanced illnesses, like cancer. Nurses assist radiologist oncologists to implement radiation treatment plans. 

A very important aspect of radiation therapy nurses is to provide patient comfort and care as they go through the physical and emotional difficulties of radiation therapy. In addition to working closely with patients, radiation therapy nurses assist with the procedures, which include external-beam radiation therapy, systemic radiation therapy, and internal radiation therapy.

Daily Responsibilities of a Radiology Nurse

While you may have a good idea of what’s expected of radiology nurses, it’s important to understand a full list of daily responsibilities and duties. Responsibilities of radiology nurses include:

  • Analyzing medical histories and working with patients to understand diagnosis situations.
  • Educating patients on procedures and serving as a middleman between the patient, nursing staff, and physician.
  • Providing guidance and other instructions to patients about the overall procedure.
  • Instructing patients on what to do before the procedure.
  • Preparing patients on procedure days.
  • Injecting special dies and other treatments into patients during procedures.
  • Administering solutions like barium enemas prior to procedures.
  • Reading diagnostic images (when applicable) and operating radiology equipment.
  • Assessing patients after treatment and providing care until discharge.

Radiology Nurse Salary

Radiology nurses are in high demand as medical imaging technology continues to grow and change. Based on the level of education and technical skill needed to be a radiology nurse, the salary is a bit higher compared to other nursing fields. The average annual salary for a radiology nurse is $62,107. A nurse practitioner in radiology earns $90,583 per year.

How to Become a Radiology Nurse

Radiology nursing is a great field for prospective nurses to enter. Becoming one involves some specialized education and getting some hands-on experience to understand if it’s the right branch of nursing for you.

Education Requirements

Registered nurses with an ADN or BSN can work in radiology, but those with a BSN may find it easier to earn employment. You can be hired as a registered nurse immediately in a radiology department. Depending on the structure of your hospital or care facility, many nurses occupy advanced leadership roles within radiology departments. 

With some advanced schooling and certifications, nurses and nurse practitioners can serve as mid-level providers. In order to do this, interested nurses must earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree as a Family Nurse Practitioner, an Adult Nurse Practitioner, or a Clinical Nurse Specialist.

Certification and Credential Requirements

There are also additional certifications radiology nurses can earn. After completing 2,000 hours of experience in radiology and a minimum of 30 hours of additional education in radiology, registered nurses are eligible to take the Certified Radiology nurse exam. This exam is offered by the Association for Radiologic & Imaging Nurses.

Becoming a radiology nurse is a great career choice for any interested RN. For more information about nursing, and work opportunities with local hospitals and medical care facilities, visit Clipboard Health.

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