Radiologic and Imaging Nurses Day on April 12 brings attention to the diverse and ever-changing nursing specialty of radiology nursing.
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.”