Choosing Your Path: Which Discipline or Specialty is Right for You?

Radiologic technology offers a number of specialty practice areas, which can make it difficult to choose which one is right for you. Hands-on learning and research into a variety of the disciplines and specialties available can give students and R.T.s looking to take their career to the next level a leg up.

We asked a number of practicing R.T.s how they went about choosing their career path:

“Two great mentors put me on the road to success,” said Marilyn Lewis Thompson, M.B.A., R.T.(R)(M), radiology clinical coordinator, didactic and clinical lab instructor, Saint Luke’s School of Radiologic Technology, Hospital of Kansas City and College of Health Sciences.

“Although I’m an R.T. and mammographer, my specialty and passion is education. My mentors told me I had what it took to do a great job with students; that I had the drive, determination and patience to help anyone in need. Whether you choose to remain an R.T. or branch out, it is your job as well as your career, so always take pride in what you do,” Marilyn recommended.

“My initial intent was not radiography, but computed tomography and/or magnetic resonance imaging,” said David Silvey, R.T.(R), at HealthReach in Cheyenne, Wyo.

“First, I had to attain my certification in radiography. During the course of the program, I developed a deep affinity for basic x-ray. I am still awed by the technology of MR imaging and its ability to delineate such a broad spectrum of anatomy. However, when I was hired as an R.T. in the clinical setting, I find I love the level of patient interaction I get in this setting, as well as the satisfaction of producing as high-quality images as possible at a level of the profession that is often regarded with minimal esteem.”

For Sebastian Ramirez, B.S., R.T.(R), “Radiography seemed like the most appropriate first step in beginning my career in health care.” Sebastian, who is a PRN diagnostic technologist at Pennsylvania Hospital, said, “Photography is a hobby of mine, and I always enjoyed the medical sciences. I took into account the amount of education I needed, and considered the amount of patient interaction and ability to help people on the job.”

Others find jobs based on fit. “I really fell into the specialty, it was not a conscious choice,” said Anne Brittain, Ph.D., R.T.(R)(M)(QM), CPHQ, FASRT, performance improvement project manager for Palmetto Health in Columbia, S.C.

“When I moved to South Carolina, I got a job as the radiology quality administrator, mainly because it was the only position available at the time that I was not overqualified for. But it was a great fit! Through that position, I worked with the performance improvement project managers on various clinical improvement teams, so when my current position came available, I was encouraged to apply.”

Here are a number of things to keep in mind when choosing your path:

  • Education – Will you need additional education, an advanced degree or additional certification for your area of interest?
  • Patient care – Do you want to work directly with patients, with students or with other R.T.s?
  • Try it out – During clinicals, try a number of different areas of study, learn what you can about them and ask questions.
  • Talk to others – Ask questions of your teachers, mentors or peers about their experiences in the field.
  • Do your research – Through all of these methods, as well as reading and learning more about the opportunities available, research what each requires, certifications needed and skills you should develop.