Radiology Nursing

How Can I Become a Radiology Nurse?

Radiology Nursing is a challenging and exciting area that combines the best of nursing with one-on-one patient care and working with technology and innovations to improve patient outcomes.

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    Specializes in Cath Lab/Radiology. Has 48 years experience.
How Can I Become a Radiology Nurse?

Overview

Radiology Nurses are involved with the assessment and plan of care of individuals who undergo interventional and diagnostic procedures as well as care for those undergoing therapeutic procedures.

Work Environment

RNs may work in either a hospital or a free-standing Imaging Center.

Some imaging departments may require RNs to be on-call for trauma or emergent procedures.

Each imaging department will have certain requirements for prospective RNs to meet. Some departments may require previous Radiology/Imaging experience as an RN, or experience working as an RN in an ED or in the ICU.

In larger facilities, RNs may work in specific areas only such as Radiation Therapy (Oncology), Diagnostic Radiology, or Interventional Radiology. Radiology Nurses working in smaller facilities may have to juggle procedures and their presence in several areas during the shift.

Radiology Nursing can be an exciting, exhausting, rewarding field. Interventional Radiology by itself, as new techniques are developed, is revolutionizing the way health services are delivered. Performing minimally invasive interventions often results in decreased recovery times, decreased costs and shorter (if any) hospital stays.

Imaging and Interventional Radiologists in some facilities employ Nurse Practitioners and Clinical Nurse Specialists as mid-level providers for key positions within the imaging field.

Duties and Responsibilities (not all-inclusive)

  • Provide pre- intra- and post-procedure patient education
  • Administer moderate sedation and monitor the effects of sedation during a procedure or imaging exam, as well as the patient's tolerance of and response to the procedure/exam itself
  • Assist with procedure setup
  • Scrub and assist MDs performing various procedures such as:
    • angiograms
    • interventions
    • biopsies
    • fluid/abscess drains
  • Inject intravenous contrast agents and monitor for side effects or adverse reactions
  • Perform pre-procedure assessments which may include reviewing labs and medications and appropriateness of the procedure for the patient
  • Initiate IV access

Skills and Qualities

  • Strong nursing skills
  • Ability to multitask
  • Advanced critical thinking skills
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills
  • High level of technical expertise
  • Working knowledge of radiologic science
  • Understanding of the basics of multiple imaging venues such as:
    • Diagnostic radiology
    • Ultrasound
    • CT and MRI imaging
  • Ensure safety measures for the protection of patients and staff during imaging

Good hand-to-eye coordination is important too, as well as physical stamina if the position entails scrubbing tableside to assist the Radiological Cardiologist.

Clinical Training Areas

  • Interventional Radiology
  • Fluoroscopy
  • Computed Tomography (CT)
  • Breast Imaging
  • Ultrasound
  • Angiography
  • Ultrasound
  • Mammography
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Associations

The Association for Radiologic & Imaging Nursing (ARIN) is the professional organization representing nurses who practice in the "diagnostic, neuro/cardiovascular, interventional, ultrasonography, computerized tomography, nuclear medicine, magnetic resonance, and radiation oncology".

The American College of Radiology (ACR) has "devoted its resources to making imaging safe, effective and accessible to those who need it."

Members include:

  • Radiologists
  • Radiation oncologists
  • Medical physicists
  • Interventional radiologists
  • Nuclear medicine physicians
  • Allied health professionals

The Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) is "dedicated to patient care through science and education in radiology".

Members include:

  • Radiologists
  • Medical physicists
  • Other medical professionals

The Association for Vascular Access (AVA) includes healthcare professionals such as (not all-inclusive) Physicians, Nurse Practitioners, Nurses, and Hospitalists who strive to "promote the emerging vascular access specialty".

Education

The first step is to graduate from an accredited RN (Registered Nurse) nursing program, successfully pass the NCLEX RN examination, and hold a current, unencumbered RN license in the individual's U.S. state of practice.

The educational requirements include an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or higher. Note that most employers will require a BSN.

RNs interested in maintaining radiology as the focus of their advanced practice specialty may obtain the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) with a focus as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Adult Nurse Practitioner or Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS). Many nurses will add certification as a radiology nurse.

Certification

Certified Radiology Nurse (CRN®)

Certification and recertification examinations are administered by the Radiologic Nursing Certification Board (RNCB) which is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing Certification (ABSNC)

Eligibility (not all-inclusive)

  • Current, unencumbered RN license in the state of practice
  • Practiced as a licensed RN minimum 2,000 hours in radiology nursing within the past 3 years
  • 30 contact hours of continuing education applicable to nursing care of radiology patients within 24 months of the date the candidate sits for the exam

Salary (2020)

According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual pay for a Radiology Nurse in the U.S. is $81,942 per year. Annual salaries are as high as $122,000 with the majority salaries ranging between $62,500 and $103,000.

Opportunities

As experienced Radiology Nurses retire and the imaging field expands with new procedures and techniques, the need for Radiology Nurses, and thus job opportunities, is expected to remain strong.

CA girl, born in Hawaii, raised in Northern CA, live in So. Cal last 35 yr.

9 Articles   3,628 Posts

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subee, MSN, CRNA

4,427 Posts

Specializes in CRNA, Finally retired. Has 51 years experience.

Interventional radiology is a high-stress area so you've got to love the adrenalin. Also spend your day in a lead apron but they are getting lighter in weight:) Usually call from home is involved. It's wonderful to care for patients who can avoid an invasive operation with the procedures that are always being developed.

dianah, ASN

9 Articles; 3,628 Posts

Specializes in Cath Lab/Radiology. Has 48 years experience.

Agree with you, subee!

It can be fast-paced and challenging!

It is satisfying, though, to know one is making a difference for patients undergoing procedures.

I liked giving one-on-one care,

getting hands-on with assisting the Radiologist,

trouble-shooting and dealing with unusual reactions/cases,

becoming competent in setting up for procedures,

becoming highly skilled starting IVs on all sorts of patients,

..

Had a little 7yo we had to cath several times in one year, for a VCUG.

She always asked for me, screamed her little head off each time I cathed her but stayed still and was a trooper for the exam.

I recall advocating for a patient who requested no students be in the room during her procedure.

One resident insisted he could stay, "that's why they sign the waiver when they're admitted!"

Nope.

Patient will have the room staff only. Period.

Radiologist backed me up. :)

I worked at a County facility and for awhile patients needing cardiac catheterization were transported by ambulance to us from a local community hospital without a cath lab.

The patients arrived quite anxious and wide-eyed, to "The County," --- quite apprehensive about what to expect (after all, County Hospitals routinely employ staff with three eyes and more than ten digits!!).

I was gratified to watch them relax as we met and prepped them for the procedure, as they realized we were serious and skilled, passionate and compassionate professionals.

Sounds silly, but some of the most satisfying procedures to me were placing nephrostomy tubes and CT- or US-guided abscess drainages!

Patients in pain with a kidney obstruction realize almost instant relief when the hydronephrosis is decompressed after nephrostomy tube placement!

And it is amazing to watch the Radiologist identify JUST the right spot to approach and insert a drainage catheter into a troublesome pocket of fluid.

I have helped table-side to embolize AV malformations, to reduce the amount of bleeding during surgery.

Received a call one day that an outpatient scheduled for an IVP couldn't come in, couldn't get out of bed.

I questioned the caller (his mother): "Is this new? Could he get out of bed yesterday?"

"Well, yes he could. He's had this back pain and he went to the doctor and got some medicine but the pain is worse and now he can't get out of bed."

"Ma'am," (I wanted to scream!) I said, using my best Mom Voice. "call 911 and have them bring him to the hospital right away."

Later that day we got an add-on IVP from the ED who, it turns out, was this man (in his 40's) with the back pain.

His mom had indeed called 911 and he was in the ED, going to be admitted, and was sent for his IVP.

IVP turned out OK.

Seems he had a spinal abscess!!

Oh my, I educated him on listening to his body. Going to the MD is fine -- even good!

Taking your meds = GREAT!

But if the problem is getting WORSE, you need to tell the MD or he will think the meds cured the problem!!

It is rewarding to work as a team with the Radiologists and Technologists, each adding their skills and strengths to care for the patients.

Ahhh, I could go on and on.... it's a good area for a nurse to work!!

Nurse SMS, MSN, RN

2 Articles; 6,837 Posts

Specializes in Critical Care; Cardiac; Professional Development. Has 12 years experience.

Thanks for posting this. Interviewing in IR today and have my fingers triple crossed.

This sounds like a great, high energy area to work in. Would you recommend this area for a new grad, or for more experienced nurses?

dianah, ASN

9 Articles; 3,628 Posts

Specializes in Cath Lab/Radiology. Has 48 years experience.

Experienced nurse.

Better for the nurse, better for the department. :)

guest940422

3 Articles; 195 Posts

Agree with you, subee!

I recall advocating for a patient who requested no students be in the room during her procedure.

One resident insisted he could stay, "that's why they sign the waiver when they're admitted!"

Nope.

Patient will have the room staff only. Period.

Radiologist backed me up. :)

!

GOOD FOR YOU!!! When I got my tonsils removed 2 years ago I wasn't scared of the surgery, I was terrified of anesthesia. I had seen so many cases where paramedic students spend the day in the OR practicing intubation (and breaking a few too many teeth while they are at it). Having spent my career in pediatrics I've seen the worst case scenarios of anesthesia mistakes because there is no such thing as a "standard dose" with kids. Ignorance really is bliss.

I told my doctor I didn't care about students practicing on my while I was awake, but once I was asleep I only wanted her, her nurse, and my nurse anesthetist to touch me unless of course I code (I even made them write it into my consent). Her initial response was "but this is a teaching hospital" I told her they could learn on someone who didn't know that(yes I'm going to hell)

True to my word I let some nursing students in holding start 4 IVs on me, then I made my nurse anesthetist look me in the eyes and promise me she wouldn't let anyone else intubate me.... that was when she told me I could have some versed while I waited

Anyway moral of the story is awake or asleep patients have rights and we are their advocates. I feel even stronger now that I've been on both sides of the coin. I would have felt betrayed and violated if i had read my op note the next month to find out someone else was managing my meds or airway. (Yes I requested my medical records to read my op note so I would know no one lied to me) nurses are terrible patients.