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Fuzzy Federal Standards Still on the Books for Radiologic Technologists

What Good"s a Rule if it"s Not Enforced?
For decades, Congresspersons have periodically addressed the issue of minimal education standards for radiologic technologists. After all, 70 percent of Americans go through a radiologic exam or treatment every year, whether it is a routine dental X-ray or a mammogram. Being such a pervasive medical necessity, one would hope that the medical workers are well-credentialed to provide the service. But that"s just not always the case. 
There are more than 1000 accredited radiologic technology programs at schools across the country, so the curriculums are easily accessible. Congress even enacted a bill as far back as 1981 to provide radiation health standards to protect the public from unnecessary exposure to potentially hazardous radiation, and have States ensure a "continuing supply of adequately educated persons.- The catch? It is entirely voluntary. A state can commit to its own guidelines or take no action whatsoever. For example, in medical settings in Dover, Delaware, workers are not required to have any actual educational training at all; they simply must pass the state"s licensing exam. Delaware is not alone. Fifteen states, and the District of Columbia, have no competency requirements whatsoever. This is unsettling to Joe and Jill Public, who fittingly want someone aiming an X-ray beam at them to know what they are doing.
Risky Business
Excessive levels of radiation are known to cause everything from skin burns to cancer. In the worst situations that have happened, the medical workers did not have certification in radiologic technology. For example, a patient in Ohio being treated for breast cancer had a hole burned into her chest area; this could have been prevented if the worker had been educated and credentialed. Study after study has proven that knowledgeable technologists use less radiation in less exposure time on patients than their less educated counterparts do. Worse yet, a poor resulting image can cause the patient to go misdiagnosed. If the resulting image is too poor to be read, the procedure must be repeated, exposing the patient to unnecessary radiation levels.
The solution is simple ... Congress needs to regulate the requirements more tightly, so that states do not have the luxury of playing Russian roulette with American lives. Radiologic technologists who have done their time in proper training programs need to demand better care for patients everywhere.

By Chris Navarro
Get Radiology Jobs, Contributing Editor

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