Radiology Nurse Career Overview
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How Long to Become
9% growth from 2020-2030
Average Annual Salary
$82,750 for all RNs
Accurately diagnosing an illness or injury often requires using imaging tests. These tests get a better look at a patient’s organs, bones, or soft tissue.
Although X-rays might be the most familiar type of imaging, doctors use a wide variety of equipment and techniques to determine what is going on inside their patients.
Radiology nurses work closely with doctors to perform a variety of imaging procedures, providing care and comfort for patients every step of the way.
The following guide explains the job responsibilities and characteristics of a radiology nurse, what it takes to qualify for one of these roles, and the career earning potential.
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What Does a Radiology Nurse Do?
Radiology nurses work with a diverse array of patients who need diagnostic imaging procedures or radiation therapy. They are part of an interdisciplinary team and work closely with physicians, radiology technicians, and specialists to care for patients before, during, and after imaging procedures.
This work includes educating patients before their procedures about what to expect, and providing instructions for preparation and aftercare.
During diagnostic imaging procedures, radiology nurse responsibilities include monitoring and evaluating patients under sedation, providing analgesic medication, performing suctioning, and starting and monitoring intravenous lines and catheters.
These nurses also provide aftercare, including helping with pain management and personal care needs until the patient is discharged or transferred to another care setting.
JGI/Tom Grill / Getty Images
- Educating patients
- Assessing, monitoring, and resuscitating
- Starting and assessing peripheral I.V. lines, infusion ports, and Foley catheters
- Administering and monitoring medication, including analgesics and sedation
- Assisting with imaging tests by adjusting and positioning patients and operating imaging equipment
- Coordinating care between radiology and other departments
- Patient assessment capabilities
- Strong critical thinking and decision-making skills
- Technologically proficient
- Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
- Leadership and management abilities
Where Do Radiology Nurses Work?
Radiology nurses most often work in hospitals, outpatient facilities, and diagnostic imaging centers. Specialization is common in this field, so a nurse may work in a breast care center, an MRI center, an OB/GYN practice, or a cancer center.
Nurses specializing in interventional radiology have additional experience in critical care. These nurses work in cardiac catheter labs and may provide care in neuro-interventional procedures like stroke interventions.
In both hospital and outpatient settings, radiology nurses often work daytime shifts on weekdays, with occasional night and weekend on-call shifts.
Hospital radiology nurses work with patients of all ages, providing care before and after imaging procedures, and assisting the radiologist during the procedure. They are often called upon to provide care in emergencies and a wide variety of procedures.
Outpatient facilities often focus on a specific type of patient or treatment. For example, radiology nurses in a cancer care center are part of the team that provides radiation therapy to oncology patients. Radiology nurses also work in urgent care, where they often need to manage emergencies and decide when patients need more advanced care.
Diagnostic Imaging Centers
The procedures performed in a diagnostic imaging center might include X-ray, ultrasound, MRI, CT scans, and more. It is a comparatively low-stress work environment. Radiology nurses in imaging centers often have more time to work with patients and provide care and comfort.
How to Become a Radiology Nurse?
To become a radiology nurse, you must first earn a registered nurse (RN) license. Although some employers will hire nurses with an associate degree in nursing (ADN), most prefer candidates with a bachelor of science (BSN) degree or higher from an accredited nursing program.
After completing an accredited nursing program, prospective nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). The NCLEX exam demonstrates competency in the basics of nursing care and qualifies you for licensure as an RN.
From there, you can work as a nurse in a healthcare environment. Few hospitals will hire entry-level nurses for radiology positions; most require 1-3 years of experience in nursing to qualify for those roles.
Radiology nurses can earn certification. This optional credential indicates knowledge and competency in the field and is issued by the American Association of Radiologic and Imaging Nursing. RNs can qualify to take the exam to become a Certified Radiology Nurse (CRN) after 2,000 hours of work experience and 30 hours of continuing education in radiology.
How Much Do Radiology Nurses Make?
The median annual salary for registered nurses, which includes specialty roles like radiology nurses, is $77,600, or about $37 per hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Factors like geographic location, individual employer, and experience can influence earning potential.
The BLS also projects demand for nurses to remain steady, growing about 9% between now and 2030, on-par with growth in other fields.
Earning the CRN credential can position you for higher-paying jobs in radiology nursing. Radiology nurses wanting to increase their pay can also seek higher-level leadership positions within their departments. They can also earn advanced degrees in nursing, healthcare administration, or related fields that prepare them for executive or provider roles within radiology.
Frequently Asked Questions about Radiology Nurses
How long does it take to become a radiology nurse?
Becoming a radiology nurse takes at least 2-4 years, depending on the path you take. Most radiology nurses gain an additional 1-2 years of clinical nursing experience before pursuing this specialty.
An RN with a two-year degree can move into a radiology role after at least a year of work experience, but many employers prefer to hire radiology nurses with a four-year BSN degree and a year of work experience. Qualifying for the CRN exam requires at least 2,000 hours of nursing work experience and 30 hours of continuing education in radiology.
What's the difference between a radiology nurse and a radiology technician?
Radiology nurses focus on the patient and provide the care they need during imaging procedures; radiology technicians operate the equipment, including X-ray, MRI, and CT machines. Technicians know how their equipment works, how to maintain it, and how to troubleshoot problems.
What skills are important for radiology nurses to have?
Radiology nurses need basic nursing skills, as well as specialized knowledge of imaging tools and techniques. Patient safety is a priority, which requires high-level skills in assessment and monitoring. Communication and collaboration are also critical skills for working as a team and effectively caring for patients and their families.
Is working as a radiology nurse hard?
Compared to bedside nursing roles, radiology nursing is a less stressful position. Work hours are often more flexible, and the work environment tends to be calmer and slower-paced than in other specialties. Radiology nurses have significant responsibilities, though, and must always be alert to potential emergencies and complications in their patients.
Page Last Reviewed: August 19, 2022
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