A CT scan technologist uses computed tomography equipment to take images of a patient’s body from different angles. The scans help identify internal injuries and diagnose diseases.
Those are just the basics. Each day, a CT scan technologist calms and supports patients, assists doctors and nurses, and aims to deliver the best possible care.
What a Technologist Looks for When Taking a CT Scan
A CT scan1 is a computerized imaging procedure that provides more detail than a typical X-ray. During the process, narrow beams of X-rays are pointed at a patient and quickly rotate around the person’s body, creating cross-sectional images of the skeleton, tissues, and internal organs. A computer collects the photos, creating three-dimensional images that allow medical professionals to quickly identify and locate basic structures and abnormalities, including cancer.
When a technologist performs a scan, they may be tasked with gathering images that could detect a number of severe medical conditions. A CT scanner is a useful screening tool for detecting:
- Tumors or lesions in the abdomen
- Heart disease or abnormalities
- Clots leading to strike, hemorrhage, and other brain-related conditions
- Pulmonary embolisms, excess fluid, as well as emphysema or pneumonia in the lungs
- Complex bone fractures, bone tumors, or severely eroded joints
Since soft tissue can be more difficult to examine, a CT technologist may give a patient an intravenous contrast agent to help illuminate the area in question. In thoracic diagnostics, the patient may receive iodine to help identify possible obstructions in the heart. For digestive system imaging, the patient may receive a barium-based compound.
What a CT Scan Technologist Does Before a Scan
Before the procedure, a CT scan technologist:
- Explains the exam to the patient, offers instructions, and answers questions
- Determines the best positions of the body to scan the area of interest, as well as staying mindful ability and comfort
- Applies principles of radiation protection to minimize unnecessary exposure to the patient
These duties require CT scan technologists2 to be well-versed in industry standard techniques and radiation safety practices.
Other responsibilities of CT scan technologists include ensuring they have all vital clinical information about the incoming patients. They use their organization’s computer and files to check health records, and double-checking that information with the patients and their loved ones. Reviewing documents and communicating with patients helps to ensure accurate, safe scans.
What Technologists Do After a CT Scan
After a scan, a CT scan technologist:
- Answers any patient follow-up questions
- Helps them off of the scanner
- Assists in transferring the person back to his/her family or another department of the medical facility
- Helps doctors interpret radiological images
Other Daily Duties
Regularly, technologists also must take steps to ensure the equipment is clean, safe, and functioning correctly. To do this, CT technologists perform tube warm-ups and calibrations daily.
CT technologists follow sterilization procedures, practice aseptic cleaning techniques to prevent bacterial contamination of their equipment and to control the spread of infection between patients. Sometimes, CT scan technologists handle hazardous materials and must take the appropriate precautions to keep patients and themselves safe.
Also, CT scan technologists perform continuous quality improvement procedures. To maintain high standards, they collect data and gather opinions from patients.
They cooperate with internal and third-party quality assurance teams, work to resolve image quality issues, and they evaluate different techniques and strategies to improve overall quality.
Finally, CT scan technologists must think on their feet, and they are required to initiate life support actions if needed.
Typical Hours and Schedules
Many CT scan technologists have the option of working part-time or full-time schedules. Hours depend on the setting they choose to work. They can choose from any facility that uses CT technology: hospitals, labs, medical facilities, and clinical settings.
Since hospitals and trauma centers operate 24 hours per day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year, technologists can expect their hours to vary and to work holidays and weekends. Technologists who work in doctor’s offices and labs can likely expect to work during regular business hours and possibly some weekend shifts.
Individuals Who Thrive as CT Scan Technologists
The position requires a significant amount of time devoted to working with patients directly and using state-of-the-art technology, so the best technologists have excellent interpersonal skills, patience, and a keen interest in technology. They also have a great interest in anatomy and physiology.
Since technologists must lift and shift patients to CT scan tables and they spend most of their days on their feet, they must be physically fit.
Days Filled with the Unexpected
A career as a CT scan technologist is challenging, rewarding and offers variety each day. From chatting with and comforting patients to using the latest technology to help diagnose diseases, there is no real typical day as a CT scan technologist.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, Computed Tomography (CT). Web. 14 March 2019. https://www.nibib.nih.gov/science-education/science-topics/computed-tomography-ct
- Bureau of Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Radiologic and MRI Technologists. Web. 14 March 2019. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/radiologic-technologists.htm