Each job, every day: imaging technologists

Mammo Tech Patient

Nuclear technologist Adam Bremer says working directly with patients is the best—and sometimes most challenging—
part of his job.

Adam Bremer has a difficult time talking about his job to his non-medical friends.

“People think we basically put Chernobyl in their body,” says Adam, a nuclear medicine technologist at Fairview Southdale Hospital. “People fear radiation, so when they hear the word ‘nuclear,’ it’s hard.”

‘A blend of art, science, medicine, technology and humanity’

It turns out, most people have little understanding of how nuclear medicine technologists—and other roles under the “imaging technologist” umbrella—impact patients’ lives.

Before she began her professional training, even X-ray technologist Virginia Conzemius didn’t have much clue as to what the job entailed.

“My vision of radiologic technologist was placing someone’s hand on a plate, pushing a button and ta-da! You’ve got a picture!” says Virginia, who works at Fairview Sports and Orthopedic Care in Burnsville.

“Little did I know it encompasses so much more. Radiology is a blend of art, science, medicine, technology and humanity.”

What they do

We have about 250 imaging technologists within several specialized fields at Fairview, including:

  • X-ray
  • ultrasound
  • MRI scan
  • CT scan
  • nuclear medicine
  • interventional technologists
  • mammography

Each specialist does something a bit different, but to mostly the same end: working with care teams in hospitals and clinics to use imaging tools to identify and diagnose internal problems.

“Basically, you pick a discipline, and we’re there to support them to some degree,” says Matt Henry, system director of Imaging Services.

Getting patients the best possible information

“We’ve got teams across the system helping patients every day, either in an emergency situation, a follow-up appointment, working to diagnose an outpatient or helping someone diagnosed with cancer,” adds Matt. “We support patients in many types of care and get them the best information possible.”

In his role, Adam injects radioactive solution into patients, which circulates throughout the body for special cameras to detect.

For example, Virginia uses X-rays to get detailed images of bones, which helps physicians diagnose all sorts of issues, which is not as easy as it sounds.

“I’m always moving the table, receptor or patient,” she says. “The patient could be positioned on the table, standing, bending, reaching or even standing on their tiptoes. When a patient has limited mobility, you have to think of creative options for getting a good exam.”

In his role, Adam injects radioactive solution into patients, which circulates throughout the body for special cameras to detect.

“It’s sort of an inside-out X-ray,” he says.

By watching how the solution has moved, different functional problems can be detected: cancers, arthritis, gall bladder issues and heart problems, for example.

“We can inject a solution to show where the heart is not picking up that fluid,” Adam explains. “We then know that tissue is dead or not getting enough blood flow. Or maybe, that area filled in on the scan so that tissue is still alive, but a doctor should go in and place a stent to give that area more blood.”

Ultrasonographers use sound waves to provide moving images of soft tissue, which can diagnose all sorts of issues, from kidney stones to thyroid problems to deep-vein thrombosis (blood clots).

Why they do it

Imaging technologists say one of the best parts of their job is directly impacting a patient’s experience and treatment.

“I love it, because my goal is to find the cause of a patient’s pain,” says Khalil (“K”) Anjum, an ultrasonographer at Fairview Southdale since 1995.

“When I find that, it gives me comfort that I have solved a piece of the puzzle. I am part of the solution.”

Part of the care solution

K remembers a female patient several months ago who came into the Emergency Department with indeterminate torso pain.

A physician ordered an ultrasound of her pelvis, thinking the issue was with her ovaries. Finding nothing on the ultrasound, K asked the patient to point specifically to the pained area, then probed that spot and found, as he describes it, “a big, juicy appendix,” ready to burst.

A new, more specific ultrasound was ordered, appendicitis was confirmed, and the patient went into emergency surgery.

“The doctor said to me, ‘I was thinking of sending this patient home—you really changed the course of treatment.’”

Virginia believes imaging technologists must have an eye for detail and strong social skills, as well as a strong desire for teamwork.

“The quality of images I take is directly related to the patient’s diagnosis and follow-up care,” she says. “If I can be attentive to each patient’s needs, it will impact their experience and their view of Fairview.”

“I love my job!” Virginia says. “I work with a team of professional people who give their best every single day. I find that motivating and rewarding.”

Learn more about Radiology careers at Fairview.

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