Radiographers take X-rays and apply radioactive substances or ultrasound to patients for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. They work at the request of a dentist or a qualified doctor or specialist, such as a radiologist.
Note the difference between a radiographer and a radiologist. Radiologists are specialised medical practitioners, who diagnose and treat diseases using radiant energies such as X-rays, ultrasound, gamma rays and radio waves. While a radiographer may take the X-rays, only a radiologist may interpret them.
Radiographers are responsible for using complex and expensive equipment for the well-being of patients during their investigation or treatment.
Radiographers take Rontgen photographs of the body’s internal structures and treat abnormalities with radiation. There are four disciplines in Radiography, namely:
Diagnostic radiography: In this discipline the radiographer is trained to position the patient and record the relevant positions, conditions and functions of the various anatomical structures and organs of the body. They capture X-ray images of the human body on film or other media using sophisticated X-ray equipment. Any abnormalities in these recorded images enable the radiographer to make a diagnosis.
Therapeutic radiography: Here the radiographer is concerned with the treatment of disease, mostly cancer, through X-rays and other radiations, for example, gamma rays from radium and cobalt-60. Therapeutic radiographers are also involved in the technical planning of the treatment and patient care.
Nuclear medicine: In this discipline, radiographers are trained in the use of radioactive nuclides that are introduced into the body to take images of the anatomy and physiology of the patient. By means of different radiation structures, organs in the body can be visually monitored and analysed so that doctors can make diagnoses.
Ultrasound: These radiographers, also called sonographers, specialise in ultrasound and use apparatus that generates high frequency sound waves to record images of soft tissue.
Radiographers or radiological technologists use highly sophisticated X-ray equipment, mammograms, or C.T. (computerized tomography) scanners to produce image that are used by radiologists to diagnose the extent of disease or injury. These images may be displayed on X-ray film, movie film, videotape, television monitors or computer read-outs.
Medical imaging technologists who are employed in a hospital may work in the radiology department, use mobile X-ray units at patients’ bedsides or work in an operating theatre. They work as part of a team with other health professionals, medical and nursing staff.
Radiographers may also be involved in administration, personnel management or teaching. Participation in an on-call roster for after-hours emergencies may also be required.
The work is highly technical and exacting, and applicants must feel comfortable with complex instruments, possess considerable manual dexterity and have meticulous work habits. The profession is both physically and mentally demanding and therefore requires individuals who cope well in a stressful environment.
Schooling & School Subjects
Degree: BRadiography (Radio Diagnostics) - UP, NMMU, UJ.
Diploma: N.Dip and B.Tech: Radiography - CUT, CPUT, DUT, TUT.
The duration of the course is 3 years. A fourth year will culminate in the BTech Radiography. Students can also complete the MTech and DTech degrees - UJ, NMMU.
Registration with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) is mandatory for this occupation. Consult the HPCSA website for the most up-to-date information relating to accredited qualifications and registration requirements. This information can be found in the relevant sections under the Professional Board for Radiography & Clinical Technology.
The Society of Radiographers of South Africa
Pinelands Business Park
New Mill Road
Tel: (021) 419-4857
Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA)
(553) of Hamilton and
Tel: (012) 338-9300