Medical Radiation Technologists - What They Do

Medical radiation technologists operate radiographic and radiation therapy equipment to administer radiation treatment and produce images of body structures for the diagnosis and treatment of injury and disease. They are employed in hospitals, cancer treatment centres, clinics, radiological laboratories, colleges and universities. Medical radiation technologists who are supervisors or instructors are included in this unit group.

Job duties

This group performs some or all of the following duties:

  • Radiological technologists
  • Operate X-ray, radiographic and fluoroscopic equipment, computerized tomography (CT) scanners, mammography units and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners to produce radiographs or anatomic images of the human body for the diagnosis by radiologists of disease or injury
  • Record and process patient data
  • Perform basic verification and quality control checks on radiographic and film processing equipment
  • Provide appropriate care and monitoring of the patient during the radiographic examination
  • Explain procedures, position patient and equipment and apply radiation protection measures
  • May train and supervise student radiographers or supervise other radiological technologists.
  • Radiological technologists may specialize in areas such as computerized tomography, angiography, mammography, magnetic resonance imaging, interventional radiology, dosimetry, stereotaxy or brachytherapy.
  • Nuclear medicine technologists
  • Prepare and administer radiopharmaceuticals, such as radionuclides and other tracer materials to patients or to biological samples
  • Operate radiation detection equipment, such as gamma cameras, scanners, scintillation counters, tomodensitometers and ionization chambers, to acquire data for use by nuclear medicine physicians in the diagnosis of disease
  • Perform diagnostic procedures using radioactive materials on biological specimens, such as blood, urine and faeces
  • Record and process results of procedures
  • Check equipment to ensure proper operation
  • Provide appropriate care and monitoring of the patient during the examination
  • Apply radiation protection measures
  • May train and supervise student nuclear medicine technologists or supervise other nuclear medicine technologists.
  • Radiation therapists
  • Operate linear accelerators, cobalt 60, X-ray and other radiation therapy equipment to administer radiation treatment prescribed by radiation oncologists
  • Check radiation therapy equipment to ensure proper operation
  • Assist radiation oncologists and clinical physicists with preparation of radiation treatment plan
  • Assist in the preparation of sealed radioactive materials such as cobalt, radium, cesium and isotopes and the construction of devices such as plaster casts and acrylic moulds to assist with administration of radiation treatment
  • Provide appropriate care and monitoring of the patient's physical and psychological well-being during the entire course of treatment
  • Explain procedures and side effects of radiation
  • May train and supervise student radiotherapy technologists or supervise other radiotherapy technologists.

Job titles

  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technologist
  • X-ray (radiology) technician
  • nuclear medicine clinical instructor
  • clinical instructor, radiation therapy
  • mammography technician
  • nuclear medicine technologist
  • radiation oncology technologist
  • radiation therapist
  • radiation therapy technologist (RTT)
  • radiography technologist
  • radiological technologist
  • supervisor, nuclear medicine technologists
  • radiotherapy technician
Employment Requirements

This is what you typically need for the job:

  • Completion of a two- to three-year college, hospital or other approved program in diagnostic radiography or magnetic resonance imaging (for radiological technologists and magnetic resonance technologists), nuclear medicine technology (for nuclear medicine technologists) or radiation therapy (for radiation therapists) or A bachelor of health sciences in radiography, nuclear medicine or radiation therapy and A period of supervised practical training are required.
  • Licensure with a regulatory body is required in all provinces.
  • Certification by the Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists is required in all provinces except Quebec.

Essential Skills


  • Read brief notes, e.g. read brief notes attached to patients' files to learn about imaging procedures. (1)
  • Read email, memos and bulletins about in-service meetings, protocol updates, employee training and hospital policy changes. (2)
  • Read a variety of equipment user manuals, e.g. read step-by-step instructions to learn why scanners and imaging computers are not working. (2)
  • Read reports written by physicians, administrators and supervising technologists, e.g. read budget reports completed by administrators to learn about their department's total expenditures and newly introduced cost control measures. (3)
  • Read a variety of manuals, e.g. read procedure manuals to learn the procedures for properly positioning patients for scans and the requirements for injection dosages. (3)
  • Read a variety of journal articles, e.g. read articles in the Canadian Journal of Medical Radiation Technology to learn about developments in radiology, image capture and scanning trends and specialty areas of study for continuous learning projects. (4)
  • Read Acts and regulations, e.g. read information contained in regulated health profession Acts to learn the regulation governing professional conduct, quality assurance and forms of energy. (4)
  • Read treatment prescriptions, e.g. read multi-page treatment prescriptions prepared by physicians to learn about dosage instructions, information on examinations that have been completed, scheduled or required and contingencies for each specific treatment. (4)
  • May read medical textbooks, e.g. read books, such as the Textbook of Radiographic Positioning and Related Anatomy, to gain clinical knowledge about health conditions and treatments. (5)

Document use

  • Observe symbols and icons on product packaging and equipment, e.g. observe symbols on equipment to learn about x-ray exposure hazards. (1)
  • Locate dosage, exposure and media information on labels, e.g. scan labels on barium and dye containers to locate the correct media to introduce during dynamic scanning procedures. (1)
  • Locate data in lists, tables and schedules, e.g. look at data contained in tables to determine the fields, exposures and equipment settings used for various lengths and intensities of x-ray exposures. (2)
  • Enter data into forms and schedules, e.g. complete patients' medical history forms by entering information, such as patients' names, treatments received, types of scans ordered and current medical conditions. (3)
  • Locate data from a variety of forms, e.g. locate information, such as names, addresses, types of exams requested, treatment histories and other information, such as contraindicative conditions from requisition forms filled out by referring physicians. (3)
  • Refer to detailed positioning manuals, e.g. study tables, charts and drawings in positioning manuals to learn protocols and determine the body position images required for each exam. (3)
  • Study film and digital scan images, e.g. study a digital scan image to locate coordinates, patients' names and birth dates, the body parts captured by the images, image identification numbers and type of contrast media used. (3)
  • Interpret complex graphs and tables, e.g. interpret complex tables to determine the exact dosages of radiation to specific areas of the body and detailed graphs depicting the movements and concentration levels of contrast media at specific time intervals. (4)


  • Write reminders and short notes, e.g. write short entries in administrative forms to report the outcomes of procedures. (1)
  • Write short email messages, e.g. write brief email messages to clerical staff to provide information about patients. (1)
  • Write brief observations on patients' charts, e.g. describe unusual pathologies and the affect they may have on diagnoses on patients' charts. (2)
  • Write descriptions of incidents on reporting forms, e.g. write descriptions of events when patients experience adverse reactions to contrast media. (3)
  • May write memos, e.g. medical radiation technologists in supervisory roles may write memos to advise co-workers about cost overruns and how shortfalls have been covered. (3)
  • Write detailed treatment notes, e.g. write treatment notes at the end of procedures to detail radiation treatments given, side effects noted and the general physical and emotional state of patients. (3)
  • May write longer annual or bi-annual reports, e.g. write reports for administrators that discuss and provide recommendations for department staffing, patient loads and the operation and maintenance of equipment. (4)
  • May write academic and research papers for presentation to workplace administrators, boards of directors and gatherings of colleagues at conferences or seminars. (4)


  • May monitor budgets, e.g. track the use of funds for activities, such as staff training and conferences. (1)
  • Measure duration of radiography exposure and quantities of liquid contrast media. (1)
  • Measure temperatures and air pressures of radiation equipment and the distance of patients' bodies from radiography tubes and scanners. (1)
  • Compare the duration of radiation exposure patients receive to acceptable exposure ranges. (1)
  • Estimate the approximate angles at which patients are positioned relative to the scanning equipment. (1)
  • May schedule patient appointments and hours of work for clerical staff. (2)
  • Measure the sizes of patient body parts using specialized tools. (2)
  • Calculate average exposure variables for assorted scanning procedures by comparing radiographic images captured by the same scanner at various numerical settings. (2)
  • Estimate the thickness of patients' body parts so they can adjust exposure settings accordingly. (2)
  • May calculate invoice amounts using fee schedules, physicians' rates of pay and applicable taxes. (3)
  • Analyze and monitor the results of diagnostic tests and other readings to determine the operating parameters of scanners and other diagnostic equipment. (3)

Oral communication

  • Exchange information with reception and clerical staff, e.g. speak with receptionists to determine the number of appointments for the day. (1)
  • Speak with patients, e.g. speak with patients to explain protocols for medical procedures, answer questions, obtain information about their health condition and discuss current diagnoses and treatment options. (2)
  • Discuss procedures, equipment malfunctions and personnel problems, e.g. talk to senior technologists and department supervisors about concerns they have about administrative procedures and to provide suggestions and recommendations. (3)
  • Comfort patients who may be frightened or upset during scanning procedures, e.g. use plain language to explain procedures and gentle tone of voice to put patients at ease. (3)
  • Discuss patients' status with nurses, social workers and other members of the extended health care team, e.g. speak with a dietician about the digestive problems an oncology patient is experiencing. (3)
  • Make presentations to co-workers, e.g. lead information sessions for their hospital's code teams and ambulance attendants to educate them on the procedures for obtaining and scheduling radiological examinations. (3)
  • May present research findings, e.g. present highly technical research-related information to colleagues at conferences and training events. (4)


  • Discover that important scanning parameters, such as spatial or directional indicators, are missing on x-rays. They add the indicators directly onto the film or printed image with a marker. (1)
  • Choose the correct film size for the size of the area to be scanned. (1)
  • Encounter requisitions for incorrect types of visual imagery. They contact the physician to discuss the requisitions and suggest alternative types of scans. (2)
  • Notice that the status of patients undergoing scanning procedures is deteriorating. They stop the procedures, notify attending physicians and return the patients to their wards. If the patients require urgent attention, the technologists alert code teams. (2)
  • Encounter late-arriving patients and those who have not taken the necessary pre-appointment measures, such as fasting. They re-schedule the appointments at a later date. (2)
  • Decide how to position patients' bodies and use scanning protocols that will result in the highest quality images. (2)
  • Evaluate the seriousness of patients' injuries, e.g. use radiographic images to assess the severity of bone fractures. (2)
  • Judge the quality of radiographs, digital images and scans. They judge the quality of images using criteria, such as the visibility of patients' ID stamps, presence of orientation and spatial indicators, correct positioning of patients, inclusion of all relevant anatomy and the clarity of the exposure. (2)
  • Find information about patients' appointments, treatments and billings by looking up patients' files, searching databases and by speaking with co-workers, such as receptionists. (2)
  • Locate information about new treatments, research and pharmaceuticals on websites and journals, such as the Canadian Journal of Medical Radiation Technology. (2)
  • Cannot access digital records and files of patients' previous scan histories from other medical centres. They contact patients' physicians to gain access to the files. They reschedule appointments if access to the records cannot be provided. (3)
  • Notice errors during radiation treatments, such as incorrect dosages. They follow protocols, discuss the errors with referring physicians and document the incidents. (3)
  • Decide the order in which patients receive service. They consider factors, such as the amount of time patients have already waited, urgency of their condition, level of patient distress and their age. (3)
  • Decide if examinations can be completed under contraindicative or complicating circumstances. They must decide whether the scan is still performable or whether the scan should be cancelled and rebooked. (3)
  • Decide whether to treat patients or refer them to attending physicians, e.g. decide to stop treatment until the patient's physician can be consulted after noticing that the size of a patient's tumour has increased significantly during the interval between diagnosis and treatment. (3)
  • Evaluate dosimetry models, e.g. in consultation with oncologists and radiation physicists, evaluate the size, intensity and required depth of beams and times of exposure of radiation dosages for tumours to establish ideal radiation dosages. (3)
  • Monitor and evaluate patients' status before and after radiation therapy treatments, integrating information from their files, physicians' reports and their own observations to judge possible next treatment steps. (3)
  • May evaluate the performance of radiology students and junior staff. They monitor procedures and examinations completed by students and co-workers. They assess the students' work using criteria, such as completeness, efficiency, scanning technique and adherence to protocols. (3)
  • Determine the order and priority of their own work tasks, subject to confirmation or approval from their supervisors. Because of variations in demand and medical emergencies, they are forced to change daily job task schedules frequently. They often integrate their plans with those of their health care team. (3)
  • Learn about patients by using the Picture Archiving and Communications System to view scan histories and scanned images, reading requisition forms, talking to patients and their families and by conferring with nursing staff and referring physicians. (3)
  • May identify patient-threatening situations by reviewing past incident reports and investigations that outline missed diagnoses and excess doses of radiation. (3)

Digital technology

  • Use basic features of word processing programs to compose letters and memos. (2)
  • Use graphic programs to create slide presentations which incorporate graphs, charts and medical images. (2)
  • May use bookkeeping, billing and accounting software to calculate invoice amounts and record financial transactions. (2)
  • Use databases to enter, retrieve and print patients' appointment and billing data. (2)
  • Use specialized databases to retrieve names, dates, medical histories, specific pathologies and catalogued scans and images. (2)
  • Use spreadsheets to record scanning data, maintain inventory lists and display procedures. (2)
  • Use intranets and email applications to exchange information and documents with co-workers, physicians, colleagues and maintenance staff. (2)
  • Use the Internet to research new and developing trends in their areas of specialty. (2)
  • Use the Internet to access online exams and training courses, e.g. access online Continuous Professional Development (CPD) exams on the Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists website. (2)
  • May use browsers and search engines to locate information, such as specifications and costs from equipment suppliers and manufacturers. (2)
  • May access web blogs to give and receive advice on matters relating to medical radiation. (2)
  • Operate a range of radiographic and radiation therapy equipment to administer radiation treatment and produce images of body structures. (3)
  • May use specialized clinical software with complex mathematical models to determine optimum doses and the proper sizes, energies and shapes of radiation treatment beams. (3)

Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Medical radiation technologists often work independently within multidisciplinary health care teams which include physicians, nurses, patient families, other medical radiation technologists and clinical oncology staff. They coordinate diagnostic scanning tasks with the tasks of the employees in diagnostic imaging or radiology departments of hospitals, clinics or radiological laboratories. There are often no specific guidelines for working in teams so medical radiation technologists must often create lines of communication with other team members to ensure efficiency. Medical radiation technologists meet regularly with clerical staff, other technologists, physicians, specialists and staff from other facilities to discuss the management of patient loads. In certain job contexts, medical radiation technologists may supervise their own staff working within specialties, such as general x-ray, magnetic resonance imaging, nuclear medicine, computed tomography scanning or radiation therapy.

Continuous Learning

Medical radiation technologists require ongoing training to keep current. Much of their learning is done on their own time and at work through reading textbooks, clinical journals, periodicals and other printed and electronic materials. They learn on the job from co-workers, supervisors and professional colleagues. They take training in the workplace, attend conferences and research emerging trends on the Internet. There are many continuous learning courses offered by national and provincial professional associations and employers, such as hospitals and clinics. Additionally, equipment suppliers may offer additional training in advanced use of their equipment as well as refresher courses. Technologists looking to obtain specialization certificates or advanced certifications may complete courses sanctioned by the CAMRT. Technologists working in provinces governed by a professional college must demonstrate regular participation in continuous learning opportunities. They may be required to annually complete Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System training.