What is the difference between Radiographers & Radiologists?
Perhaps the best way to understand the differences between the roles of radiographers and radiologists is to start by first identifying their similarities. Despite the different job titles, both radiologists and radiographers are medical professionals who use imaging technology to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. Even more importantly, they are both members of the radiology discipline, and as such, they share a detailed knowledge of anatomy, physics and patient care.
The major distinctions that differentiate radiographers from radiologists revolve around primarily two key factors; job responsibilities and education. Taking a closer look at each of these areas will give a clear picture of how these health care professionals differ and how they work together.
Radiologists, by definition, are medical doctors, with radiology being their field of specialization. Many radiologists further specialize in areas such as nuclear medicine, pediatric radiology or even cardiac imaging. No matter their subspecialty, the primary focus of a radiologist is to provide diagnostic imaging support.
They accomplish this by:
- Preparing for imaging procedures.
- Consulting with the patients’ other doctors.
- Using their medical expertise to interpret the imaging results.
- Making highly informed diagnoses.
Radiographers are the medical professionals tasked with operating highly specialized, state-of-the-art scanning machines. These health care professionals operate medical imaging equipment, while radiologists are primarily concerned with providing imaging interpretation. Once qualified, radiographers use scanning equipment that includes x-ray machines, computed tomography (CT scanners) and even advanced technologies such as digital fluoroscopy to produce specialized imaging.
Radiographers are primarily responsible for:
- Properly preparing patients.
- Verifying safety protocols are followed.
- Having the knowledge to operate a wide range of imaging devices.
- Producing quality x-rays and images to ensure the right diagnosis can be made.
- Following the supervision of a radiologist.
Since radiologists are licensed medical doctors, the requirements needed for this position are part of a much longer education process. In addition to completing a four-year undergraduate degree, radiologists must go on to attend a four-year medical school. From there, radiologists need to complete a hospital residency in radiology, which is generally another four-year process. Radiologists looking to practice a subspecialty like neuroradiology, for example, would pursue a fellowship for even more specialized training.
Professional radiographers must complete a radiological education program that is accredited by the Joint Review Commission on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT). These include two-year associate and four-year bachelor’s degree programs that prepare radiography students to sit for the National Certification Examination, which is administered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). A qualified program should both teach students the essential skills of medical imaging and give professional experience through clinical rotations. This multifaceted approach gives students the necessary skills to gain entry-level employment in the health care industry. Just like radiologists, radiographers can further specialize in certain procedures, such as ultrasounds or mammograms