The path to radiologic and imaging nursing is one that is best started in a foundation of an ICU or emergency department experience says Dr. Sylvia Martin, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, and president of the Association for Radiologic and Imaging Nursing (ARIN). “You need a lot of different skills,” she says. “In imaging, you have opportunities to learn preop and pre procedure skills. You learn to do nurse administration sedation, assist in the procedural area, gain recovery area skills, and interventional radiology as well.”
Martin, who worked in pediatric ICU and pediatric cardiac ICU, found her true passion when she started working in pediatric radiology. In particular she enjoyed getting to know patients, some of whom would come through for cancer treatments and others for routine surveillance. “It’s also a different pace,” she says of radiology nursing. “You have patients scheduled all day and there’s always something new and exciting coming out in the field.”
Radiologic and imaging nurses also are adaptable. “This is a tech-driven field,” says Martin. “There’s always new research and evidence-based information coming out. Radiology nurses have to be able to adjust.” Martin says artificial intelligence is bringing exciting advances in how nurses are able to make their work more efficient as, for example, scan times are reduced as technology improves. “Imaging and radiology is part of the future of healthcare,” she says.
Even more exciting is the new ways interventional radiology is advancing healing with minimally invasive procedures and more precise imaging. “With less invasive procedures, there is less infection, faster recovery, and then patients recover better at home,” she says. “The work in interventional radiology has huge impact.”
Radiologic and imaging nurses work with all areas of radiology from MRI and CT scans to nuclear medicine, says Martin. In each area, they learn different techniques to ease the process for patients, provide more information for physicians, and bring the best results.
Nurses interested in radiologic and imaging nursing should gain some real-world experience in this role by shadowing someone and talking with nurses in the field. The ICU and ED experience that Martin recommends is important for the critical thinking and hands-on skills that come from working with an interdisciplinary team. To keep patients safe in these procedural areas, nurses need to be confident and thinking clearly, she says, because the radiology nurse is frequently the person in the clinical management of the patient.
Resources such as the ARIN also help. “They can join ARIN right now and meet up with other nurses and then begin to feel like a community,” says Martin. Nurses interested in particularly high-tech areas can look at interventional radiology which works with all parts of the body. Whether they are working with gynecology, vascular or neuro issues, or even delivering chemotherapy directly into tumors, nurses in this specialty are still considered as radiologic and imaging nurses. “It’s so broad,” Martin says. “And it’s amazing that one role does all that.”
Working with patients and seeing how their specialty makes a meaningful difference is what keeps nurses in the role, says Martin.”There’s a human touch piece of radiology nursing,” she says. When patients with cancer come in for a final scan and no cancer is found, nurses celebrate that remission status right along with patients. “There’s so much gratitude there,” she says. “That’s definitely the priceless and rewarding part.”
The April 12 celebration of Radiologic and Imaging Nurses Day (also known as Radiology Nurses Day) honors nurses who specialize in areas of radiology nursing. Sponsored by the Association for Radiologic and Imaging Nursing (ARIN), this event helps raise awareness of this role and offers an opportunity for nurses to celebrate their accomplishments in this fast-paced, complex field.
Minority Nurse recently interviewed Martha M Manning BSN, RN CRN, and president of NEC-ARIN 2020-21, the New England chapter of ARIN to find out more about this nursing specialty.
What led you to your career as a radiology nurse?
My mother was a nurse and loved it. It was a career she chose to give up to raise her family of nine children but she kept up with her nursing journals and her colleagues still in the field. She always loved it. I believe nursing is a gift and helping people was a driving force in becoming a nurse for me. I graduated in 1984 from Middlesex Community College with an associate’s in nursing. I began my career at Lowell General Hospital in 1985 and started in the Radiology department in 1997. I earned my bachelor’s of science in nursing from Rivier University in 1995. Earning my degree has equipped me to be a better nurse. After all of those years and all of the experience, I had I still had things to learn.
Please tell me a little about the diversity on your team and why that’s important for your team and your patients.
I began as one of the first nurses in radiology. I was floated down from our surgical day care unit and saw a need for nursing presence. Joint Commission was noticing radiology departments and the need for continued nursing care for inpatients in the area. I fell in love with the people of radiology, the work they did and have never looked back.
As we expanded from a team of one to a team of ten we’ve organically become more diverse through our focus on providing the best patient care. Our hiring is aimed at providing an excellent patient experience, which has naturally led to diversity in experiences, backgrounds, races, ethnicity, and gender. Our diverse and well-rounded team is an outcome of our process of hiring the best candidates to serve our patients.
It sounds like nurses need experience in varied areas before they take on a role as an imaging nurse. What are some of the complexities imaging nurse’s work with and how does prior experience prepare nurses for this work?
Interventional radiology is an extraordinary field, and imaging nursing is growing with it. The acuity of patients that are on the procedural table now requires an experienced critical care nurses education and background.
The team can be called in to stop bleeding from a hemorrhaging splenic arterial bleed or a post-partum hemorrhage. Everyone needs to know their role, critical and accurate nursing assessments are vital to the success of the cases. It takes time to develop cardiac rhythm and hemodynamic monitoring skills and assessments that need to be second language to the IR nurse. Compassion is so important too! Consensus on hiring is important to our culture of respect and professionalism.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I am currently the clinical manager of the IR and imaging nurses at Lowell General Hospital. I do love making a difference. Sometimes it’s with patients and now it’s often with staff, too. Good management makes for a good team. Mutual respect enables us to practice in an environment that supports growth and looks for opportunity to improve.
How has your involvement with NEC-ARIN helped you professionally and personally?
Yes. I believe membership to a local or national organization as well as certification in your specialty improves professional practice. Position statements, scope, and standards of practice are important pieces of our growing practice.
You will find IR and imaging nurses in every hospital today. We are in IR suites, in radiology waiting rooms, CT rooms, and US. We are here to support the radiology departments and the inpatient nurses who send their patients from their rooms for procedures and exams. We comfort, educate, and assess people of all ages and background…and we love what we do!
Radiologic and imaging nurses are a busy group of professionals right now. With so many people ill with the COVID-19 respiratory virus, radiology has been a key diagnostic tool for patients.
National Radiologic and Imaging Nurses Day, sponsored by the Association for Radiologic and Imaging Nursing, is celebrated this year on April 12. Many people worldwide are now familiar with how important this tool is in diagnosing everything from routine screening to illness. COVID-19 patients undergo a high number of imaging studies to diagnose the lung problems, such as fluid in the lungs from pneumonia, that are a frequent complication from this virus.
Radiologic and imaging nurses are there to help patients who are undergoing various tests using ultrasound, CT scans, MRI, PET scans, or fluoroscopy, for example. They might be with patients as they undergo cardiac procedures that require imaging for placement and direction such as for catheters or stents or they might be on a team for guided breast biopsies or to diagnose deep vein thrombosis.
Nurses in this specialty work with patients of all ages and they generally have quick interactions with them, rather than extended time. However, many radiologic and imaging nurses who remain in the same organization might find they build relationships with repeat patients. They might see the same people come in for annual screenings, or they may be an integral part of a patient team for someone managing or recovering from an illness.
Opportunities to build relationships are important in radiologic and imaging nursing. You might see a patient only one time, but your interaction with them will help them mitigate any anxiety about a procedure, celebrate good results or manage results that aren’t good. A steady, professional, and empathetic nurse makes any kind of imaging procedure easier for the patient—even if it doesn’t always seem that way.
Nurses in this specialty can also expect a career that includes constantly changing knowledge of the different machines used in radiology and imaging studies. You’ll need to be familiar with how the machines work and know about standard and safe practice. You’ll use this information in caring for your patients and also to help educate them about what is going to happen while they are under your care.
You’ll need to use your knowledge about the actual machines to then help inform your practice about how the machines are used in each procedure—whether it is a catheterization, a biopsy, or a scan of lungs or a liver for example. Each procedure varies based on the patients and any comorbidities they have. So critical thinking is an essential skill and one that will be used each day as a radiologic and imaging nurse.
If this area of nursing interests you, you’ll use all your different skills for assessing patients, managing their care, working with cutting-edge technology, being an essential team member, and understanding the various body systems impacted by any imaging work.
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