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Any job can be potentially hazardous. In addition to dangerous situations faced by all health care workers, such as pathogen exposure and back injuries from transporting patients, x-ray technicians (radiographers) must be aware and protect themselves from potential exposure to ionizing radiation. With the proper precautions, the potential for injury from these three hazards is minimized.
X-ray technicians must wear a lead apron any time there is the potential for exposure. If your hands may be near the x-ray beam, wear lead gloves. In addition to a lead apron, thyroid shields and leaded goggles should be worn during fluoroscopic examinations. If you must be in the x-ray imaging suite during an examination, step as far away from the radiation source and patient as possible. Since the intensity of radiation diminishes by the square of the change in distance, distance provides protection. Wear your radiation monitoring badge and review your readings to ensure your exposure stays below the permissible dose value.
Radiation Technical Factors and Equipment
Set technical factors for the exposure that use the highest mAs (milliampere seconds) and lowest kVp (kilovolts peak) combination possible while still maintaining proper image density and contrast. This combination not only delivers a lower dose of radiation but also provides a larger margin of error for image density, reducing the need for repeat exposures. Every exposure made increases the chance of unintentional radiation exposure to the radiographer.
Personal Protective Equipment
Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) any time you come into contact with a patient. Gloves must be worn any time there is potential for contact with bodily fluids. Face masks must be worn any time the patient is coughing or if you are in the presence of an airborne pathogen. Splatter shields are worn to protect the eyes from bodily fluids. Whole-body cover-ups are worn if there is potential for pathogen exposure to the clothing. These are often worn during trauma examinations.
Get help, when needed, to lift or move patients. Spinal injuries are common in health care workers. Proper patient lifting techniques must be employed to prevent these injuries. A common reason for back injuries is not properly assessing the patient's ability to assist in moving. Another reason is the radiographer's failure to get assistance when moving a patient.
Get help to examine a combative patient. This is especially important in emergency department radiography. While you are busy positioning equipment and setting technical factors, you may take your eyes off a combative patient. Ask for assistance from another health care provider or facility security guard.
Denise Nyland "Denisen" is a long term resident of Panama City, Fla. She studied radiologic sciences and education and has published articles in multiple professional journals and contributed to various educational texts.