7 Patient Care Tips for Imaging Technologists
As crucial members of the healthcare team, imaging technologists are responsible for performing diagnostic imaging examinations, administering radiation therapy treatments, and ensuring the comfort and safety of patients. In addition to performing the medical and technical duties of the job, imaging technologists also need the skills to clearly explain what patients can expect during treatment or diagnostic procedures and the skills to alleviate, as much as possible, any discomfort or anxiety those patients may experience.
In recent years, medical facilities and teaching hospitals around the world have transitioned from care that is disease-centered to a system that is increasingly patient-centered.1 This method of respectful and empathetic patient care focuses on developing a connection between the medical professional and the patient, the inclusion of the patient in his or her care plan, and the development of an individualized treatment plan. As an imaging technologist, you are often one of the first members of the treatment team to have contact with a patient. How you approach patients and manage their imaging diagnostics is critical to the overall comfort patients experience and the success of their treatment.
A Wholistic Approach
Rather than focusing primarily on illness, a wholistic approach to healthcare focuses on the body, mind, and spirit. Medical professionals who follow this healthcare approach believe the human body is not merely a collection of cells, organs, and tissues, but rather, the body is a collection of systems that depend on each other to work in a cohesive manner. Addressing a patient’s present medical condition is important; however, it is not the only measure of healing and restoration. For complete and overall health, the spiritual, mental, and emotional aspects of the patient must also be considered.
In a wholistic health approach, the patient is an active participant in his or her healthcare plan and is involved at every level of decision-making regarding the course of treatment. Imaging technologists, as essential members of the treatment and diagnostic team, should be aware of the importance of incorporating the spiritual or faith-based elements of treatment. They should also work to help coordinate healthcare options, manage illness, promote optimum overall health, and empower the patient.
Help the Patient Feel at Ease
Reassurance is a critical element of all patient interactions. A significant part of your role as an imaging technologist is to help instill a sense of understanding, acceptance, and comfort. Most patients will be unfamiliar with the diagnostic process and the imaging equipment, so it’s important to provide a clear, jargon-free explanation of the process. Be honest and let them know if there will be no pain or if they should expect some discomfort. Assure them that they are in experienced and capable hands. If the patient is required to change into a gown, offer the privacy and respect needed to make the situation comfortable. If the patient is sitting when you explain a process or procedure, you should sit as well. Understand that most patients will feel vulnerable and many may feel powerless. Avoid towering over patients when possible and be careful to announce when you need to touch patients, explain why you need to touch them, and show them where you will be placing your hands before touching them when possible.
Take Time to Know Your Patient
Ask specific and detailed questions so that you can accurately record relevant medical history. Discuss any current physical conditions or illnesses, recent surgeries or treatments, current discomfort or pain, or allergies the patient may have. Actively listen, repeat important details back to the patient for confirmation, and ask specific questions if you need clarification. Allow time for the patient to ask questions and respond to their answers. Although you may have a tight schedule, never make a patient feel like you are rushing through their exam. Feeling rushed can add to patient anxiety and make it more difficult to achieve high-quality imaging results.
Understand Your Equipment
Imaging technology is continually improving, and it’s important to understand the function and capabilities of all imaging equipment. An imaging technologist participates in preventive, curative, and palliative care. Knowing the current features of the imaging software and equipment you use is crucial to an accurate diagnosis, and your knowledge and expertise can increase the comfort level of your patient.
Whenever possible, modify and adapt the clinical setting to your patient’s needs, always keeping patient comfort in mind. Utilize positioning aids and adjust the equipment around the patient when possible rather than moving the patient into uncomfortable positions. Use portable equipment when available to help accommodate patients with unique needs
Explain the Process
Provide a detailed explanation of the imaging exam, what the patient may expect to hear, feel, and see at each stage, and how long it will take. If the patient requires IV contrast or medications during the exam, explain how and when the medication will be administered, what the patient might feel as a result, and any potential side-effects.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a loud imaging exam. Earplugs or headphones are essential for patient safety to prevent possible hearing damage. Be sure to warn patients about the potential noise and describe what they will hear so they are prepared. If the exam requires a positioning device, such as those worn during brain scans, try to make the patient as comfortable as possible and explain why the device is needed. Be sure to address other concerns patients might have such as offering an eye cover to help alleviate feelings of claustrophobia during enclosed exams such as MRI or CT scans.
Treat the Patient as You’d Expect to be Treated
Put yourself in your patient’s place. What information would you need to know in order to be comfortable with an imaging procedure or radiologic treatment? How would you be more comfortable during an imaging exam? The foundation of a wholistic health approach and patient-centered treatment plan is encouraging questions and providing specific and knowledgeable answers. Part of your role as an imaging technology professional is creating an atmosphere in which the patient is empowered to ask questions and in which you know the answers. The treatment you expect for yourself or your loved ones is the same care you should be providing.
Special Pediatric Considerations
A medical environment can be intimidating and frightening to a child. The imaging exam can leave a lasting impression, and as an imaging technologist, you have the opportunity to help ensure it is a positive one. Your attitude, behavior, mood, understanding, and patience can go a long way toward making a pediatric patient feel more comfortable. In addition to unfamiliar and large machines, there may be loud noises that startle a pediatric patient and unusual smells. Worst of all, children are ordered to be still, which isn’t easy for most young patients especially when they are scared or anxious.
It’s important to explain the steps of the procedure in a calm, gentle manner. Your tone is important as well. Avoid making loud noises that will alarm younger patients, and if your hands are cold, warn your patients before touching them. Your interactions and the overall experience of the imaging process can help a pediatric patient’s future medical interactions be less stressful.2 Remember, when working with young patients, you are also working with their parents. Always keep mom and dad informed and aware of what to expect, and remember to include pediatric patients in discussions if they are in the room.
As an imaging technologist, you have the honor of providing high-quality care and helping people during what is often a stressful and challenging time. These tips for wholistic care can help you deliver expert attention while supporting your patients.
Learn More about AHU Online
AHU Online provides imaging technologists online opportunities for career advancement or credentialing through a rigorous, but nurturing and highly reputable, healthcare environment. Learn more here about our advanced imaging certificates and bachelor’s degree programs on our website.
- Jessica Briefer French, “Person-Centered Care Planning: Identifying Goals and Developing Care Plans,” NCQA Blog, February 24, 2016, http://blog.ncqa.org/person-centered-care-planning/.
- Cristina Oana Mărginean et al. “Communication skills in pediatrics – the relationship between pediatrician and child,” Medicine (Baltimore) 96, no. 43 (2017): e8399, doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000008399.