This page provides a description of practice in medical radiation technology in the current Canadian healthcare environment, and to present the core professional attributes required by a medical radiation technologist (MRT) to practice safely and effectively.
Given the rapid evolution of technology and the changing regulatory environment, it is important for medical radiation technology professionals, policy and decision makers for the profession, and employers to understand the contributions that MRTs make to the broader healthcare community in their practice.
Advances in medical radiation technology have transformed medicine. Evolution in the field over more than a century has led to the development of sophisticated medical imaging and treatment technologies that have revolutionized the identification and diagnosis of pathologies and the treatment of disease.
Over time, healthcare professionals and patients have come to depend on the professionalism and expertise of highly-skilled MRTs to provide the essential link to the power of technology in magnetic resonance, nuclear medicine, radiological technology and radiation therapy services across Canada in hospitals, cancer centres and clinics.
Professionalism is an essential trait. The elements and values of professionalism described below form a fundamental foundation for MRT practice, directing decision making and actions, and shaping how the profession is perceived.
Patient- and family-centred care
Patients are the primary focus for MRTs in their clinical practice. MRTs are caring and compassionate healthcare professionals that bridge the gap between humanity and the sophisticated technology they operate.
Direct contact with patients in the clinical setting allows MRTs the opportunity to confirm and anticipate the needs of patients and their families and adapt their practice within accepted standards to deliver quality care.
Communication with patients and their families is one of the many important aspects of the MRT role. As a primary point of contact for patients on their healthcare journey, MRTs provide education about the procedures and treatments to be performed and answer questions to increase understanding and alleviate anxiety and stress.
MRTs demonstrate commitment to a patient- and family-centred approach to care, by working for best patient outcomes, by respecting patient rights (e.g., confidentiality) and needs, and by encouraging the patient’s involvement in their own care. This commitment is extended to patients from all cultures and backgrounds, with MRTs ensuring all are treated with dignity, equality and respect.
MRTs work closely with other healthcare professionals to provide quality diagnostic and treatment services to the patient. They are themselves respected and essential members of the interprofessional team and recognize and respect the role of all involved in the collaborative process whose aim is to ensure optimal outcomes for patients.
As leaders in their field, many MRTs contribute their knowledge and expertise to help shape policy and decisions and by providing education in medical radiation technology to the other members of the collaborative healthcare team.
Commitment to education and life-long learning
A key element of professionalism is meeting a standard of education with the required knowledge, skills and judgement to perform competently.
Medical radiation technology education is offered by Canadian Medical Association (CMA) accredited programs at colleges and universities across Canada. The curriculum is developed using competency (skills/occupational) profiles that have been created through a rigorous and broad consultative and validation process with all stakeholders. The profiles provide behaviours and competencies required at entry level for safe and effective practice, and a foundation for future practice. Graduation from these accredited programs grant the graduate access to a certification exam, either the OTIMROEPMQ exam in Quebec or the CAMRT exam in the rest of Canada, successful completion of which is the basis for entry-to-practice.
Critical thinking, use of best practices, and resourceful management to ensure competence are significant elements of MRT professionalism. In a dynamic healthcare environment with emerging technologies and changing practice, continuing education is essential to maintain competence. The MRT engages in reflective practice: identifying gaps in knowledge and skills, formulating a learning plan, and completing activities to match learning needs and goals.
Click here to view Best Practice Guidelines.
Commitment to the profession
MRTs are committed to the advancement of the medical radiation technology profession. Leadership in the workplace, broad participation in professional organizations, a growing engagement with research, and the development of communities of practice, demonstrate the commitment of MRTs to the practice of their profession and optimal outcomes for patients.
Acting within legal and ethical boundaries
As healthcare professionals, MRTs practice in accordance with a code of ethics, scope and standards of practice and regulatory requirements where applicable. They also adhere to their facilities’ policies and procedures.
Expertise in Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy
The expertise required for competent practice is achieved with a comprehensive and specialized education program in medical radiation sciences and complemented by continued professional development over the course of a career.
MRTs use their expert knowledge of imaging and/or radiation therapy equipment, together with an extensive understanding of the principles of anatomy, physiology and pathology, image acquisition, treatment and radiation protection to deliver quality care to their patients. MRTs always ensure the care provided is safe, appropriate, tailored, timely, and maximizes the potential of the available equipment and resources.
Quality patient care
MRTs are focused on delivering the highest quality outcomes for patients in medical imaging and radiation therapy. In medical imaging, this relates to the acquisition of the highest quality images possible; whereas in radiation therapy, the focus is directed at planning and delivering optimal ionizing radiation for therapeutic purposes.
Diagnostic imaging and the delivery of radiation therapy are performed with great care and precision. Working with the interdisciplinary team, MRTs in all disciplines use their substantial knowledge and expertise to assess patients and their clinical history as it relates to the requested examination and/or prescription, working to ensure that patients receive the most appropriate care. MRTs then use the information gathered to plan the examination or treatment to ensure optimal results – adapting protocols as necessary to accommodate patient status and condition, available equipment and the environment in which the procedure is taking place.
MRTs are also on hand for the duration of diagnostic imaging procedures and the delivery of radiation therapy. MRTs ensure patients are optimally positioned to undergo the examination or treatment, and administer pharmaceuticals related to the procedures as required. MRTs then monitor patient status and respond to any change in condition, to ensure patient safety and comfort.
In addition to preparing the patient physically to undergo treatment, MRTs also play a role in the education of patients, providing information related to the examinations and treatments being undertaken and a chance for patients to have their questions answered. In some situations, such as the weeks-long interactions that occur in radiation therapy, MRTs are a primary point of interaction, offering education and counselling to support the patient’s physical, psychological and emotional needs throughout.
A safe environment
MRTs provide a safe environment for patients, families and other healthcare colleagues and providers. Guided by the “As Low As Reasonably Achievable (ALARA)” principle, MRTs apply their knowledge of radiation effects and risks to minimize dose to their patients, other healthcare colleagues and the public. MRTs educate the patient, provider and public on the benefits and risks of imaging and therapy through different means and situations. This responsibility to educate also extends to patient advocacy, as the MRT is the last frontline professional in the decision making process to image or treat the patient.
Safety is enhanced through the MRTs’ participation in a variety of programs, from the technical-to the patient-focused. Quality control, assurance and improvement programs ensure that the equipment used in MRT practice is operating at optimal performance to achieve accurate diagnostic and treatment results.