What is a Medical Radiation Technologist?
Canada’s medical radiation technologists (MRTs) are caring professionals, high-tech specialists, and essential members of the healthcare team. Medical radiation technologists perform diagnostic imaging examinations and administer radiation therapy treatments. If you have ever had an x-ray, scan, MRI, nuclear medicine procedure or radiation therapy, you have been in contact with an MRT.
They can be found in emergency departments, operating rooms, mobile breast screening vans as well as diagnostic imaging departments and clinics. MRTs, provide service to both the public and private sectors within the Canadian healthcare system. Their key role is in diagnosis and treatment, and serve as advisors to radiologists, radiation oncologists and other healthcare providers. Because they deal with patients on the front lines, they also serve as patient advocates and educators. Some of them are also healthcare researchers, technical and therapy specialists, and interdisciplinary consultants.
MRTs work in dynamic and ever changing environments with cutting edge technology. The marriage between using that technology and providing care to patients is what makes the profession unique. MRTs are an integral part of care providing teams and forage meaningful relationships with their patients during the time they are with them.
The Four Disciplines of Medical Radiation Technology
A radiologic technologist produces images of a body part or system using equipment that emits x-rays. The radiologist — a doctor who specializes in interpreting x-rays — studies the images and dispenses advice that helps the treating physician make a diagnosis and prescribe an appropriate course of treatment for the patient. Technologists are responsible for the quality of the x-ray images and for providing the correct view of specific body structures or systems
The radiological technologist discipline encompasses a broad variety of procedures and covers a number of specialties, including:
- General Radiology, i.e., x-rays of the chest, bones, joints, spine
- Mammography to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages
- Angiography to examine the heart, blood vessels and blood flow
- Fluoroscopy: Real-time images that show how the systems in the body function, for example, the gastrointestinal or urinary systems of a patient
- Computerized tomography (CT scans), i.e., detailed cross-sectional images of the body
A nuclear medicine technologist carries out diagnostic imaging and some treatment procedures in hospitals or private medical clinics. They obtain the images that help pinpoint the nature of a disease and how it is affecting the body. Their work also enables doctors to monitor a patient’s response to treatment. Nuclear medicine involves the use of radiopharmaceuticals to evaluate the function of specific organs in the treatment and management of disease.
Some of the main uses of nuclear medicine are to:
- Evaluate coronary disease
- Study how the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys and other organs are functioning
- Determine the location of tumours
- Monitor the progression of cancer and the results of cancer treatments
- Diagnose hormonal disorders
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
A magnetic resonance technologist produces diagnostic images using equipment that generates radio waves and a strong magnetic field. Extensive knowledge of physics, anatomy, pathology and physiology allows MRI technologists to obtain images, monitor and care for patients during scans.
Some uses of MRI are:
- Detect subtle abnormalities within the brain and spinal column
- Examine tissue of the joints muscles, ligaments and tendons
- Provide detailed studies of major organs including the breasts, liver, spleen, kidneys, the urinary system and the male and female sexual organs
- View the workings of the heart and vascular system
- Study body chemistry and functions
A radiation therapist is a key member of the cancer treatment team. More than half of all cancer patients receive radiation treatments, which may be given in conjunction with other forms of treatment. Radiation therapists use focused beams of radiation to destroy tumors, while minimizing harm to healthy tissues. Alternatively, treatment may involve placing radioactive sources directly into the patient’s body. They counsel patients on possible side effects from treatment and provide advice on how to minimize side effects.
- Destroys cancerous tissue
- Involves exposure to higher doses of radiation than are required for diagnostic imaging.
- Uses precise targets and doses to the patient
- May be used in palliative care
Educational Programs for Medical Radiation Technology
|Radiologic Technology||Nuclear Medicine||Radiation Therapy||MRI|
|College of the North Atlantic||♦|
|University of Prince Edward Island||♦|
|University of New Brunswick||♦|
|College Communautaire du NB||♦|
|Michener Institute / University of Toronto||♦||♦||♦||◊|
|Red River College||♦||◊|
|Cancer Care MB/University of Winnipeg||♦|
|Southern Alberta Institute of Technology||♦||♦|
|Northern Alberta Institute of Technology||◊♦|
|University of Alberta||♦|
|British Columbia Institute of Technology||♦||♦||♦||◊♦|
|College of New Caledonia||♦|
◊ – Second Discipline program
♦ – First Discipline program