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How to Become A Radiology Director

July 22, 2020  |  Category: Imaging

Two radiologists sit at a desk looking at MRI scans on a computer.

Patients rely on a team of healthcare professionals when seeking comprehensive medical and diagnostic care. Doctors, nurses, and physician assistants provide initial assessments, but additional tests are often needed to determine or confirm the diagnosis.

These tests — which can include X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and ultrasounds — are important elements in providing efficient and high-quality medical care. Radiology directors, or directors of diagnostic imaging, have the responsibility of making sure that diagnostic imaging results are obtained quickly and accurately to inform physician decisions.

Radiology directors play a critical role in the healthcare setting, as doctors and patients rely on accurate imaging to diagnose medical problems ranging from bone fractures to brain tumors. By providing an internal view of a patient, these tests can help determine the exact cause of an ailment or injury.

Uses of Diagnostic Radiology

Diagnostic images play a vital role in healthcare and patient care management. The exams performed in radiology departments (or diagnostic imaging departments) can confirm a doctor’s preliminary diagnosis or reveal a different problem than was initially suspected. Imaging results can also provide the basis for treatment plans formulated by doctors.

For patients who have already been diagnosed and given a treatment plan, radiology imaging can help monitor the body’s response to treatment. If tests reveal less progress than anticipated, the treatment plan might need to be reconsidered.

Diagnostic imaging also plays a role in preventive medicine. Testing can screen for illnesses such as cancer or heart disease. Routine screenings can catch these conditions early on, which could help improve their prognosis.

Types of Diagnostic Imaging Tests

Performed by imaging technologists who report to the radiology director, there are seven common categories of diagnostic imaging tests. The director must have expert knowledge of the testing equipment used in each exam, along with their proper testing procedures and safety protocols. The most common imaging modalities are:

  • X-rays (radiography)
  • CT (computed tomography) scans
  • Angiography (interventional imaging)
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and MRA (magnetic resonance angiography) exams
  • Mammograms
  • Ultrasounds, sometimes referred to as sonograms
  • Nuclear medicine exams

What Does a Radiology Director Do?

To differentiate this position from diagnostic imaging technologists, it is helpful to know what a radiology director does. As the head of the department, directors oversee staff, maintain and monitor equipment, create and track operational budgets, optimize patient throughput in the radiology department, and act as the department representative for the facility. They also ensure compliance with various regulatory standards in healthcare and imaging.

A director’s day is often divided between completing administrative tasks, such as managing the department budget, and supervising daily operations. This requires a combination of technical expertise and managerial aptitude. Directors of radiology must have the knowledge and skills of a technologist along with a strong background in administrative leadership.

Health professionals in this position are often promoted from within the department. They typically start working as a technologist, and as they gain experience in diagnostic imaging and learn supervisory skills, they can qualify for the director position. Prior experience fosters an awareness of the roles of different staff members within the department and an understanding of each position’s responsibilities.

Technologists who move into radiology management may also advance their administrative and critical-thinking skills by enrolling in university radiology degree programs that focus on leadership competencies.

Making a Positive Impact on Patient Health

Hospitals and healthcare centers contain a number of departments, such as emergency, pediatrics, gynecology, and oncology units. Radiology is unique in that it plays a central role for each of these different specialties.

An oncologist may order a CT scan for a patient to check for cancer, just as a pediatrician may request a chest X-ray for a young patient with pneumonia. An ER doctor may have a patient with head trauma undergo an MRI, and a gynecologist could send a patient for an HSG test.

The prominent position of the department means that radiology directors can make a positive impact throughout the healthcare organization. By running a professional and reliable diagnostic imaging department, directors enable doctors and care providers to plan and refine critical treatment plans for patients.

As technology advances, imaging methods will become increasingly effective. Having a capable leader who can direct staff to follow procedures, maintain safe practices, and obtain high quality images can bring immeasurable benefits to healthcare facilities and the patients they treat. An efficient radiology department can also help improve the health of the local population.

Radiology Director Roles and Responsibilities

As the leader of the department, radiology directors have a number of different duties. Although most directors of radiology are qualified to work directly with patients, the majority of their time is spent overseeing staff and planning the department operations. The main duties of the director involve the following elements:

Staff and Patient Safety

Safety is the department’s top priority. The director must make sure all staff members are closely following proper safety protocols to ensure the safety of patients and coworkers. This is particularly important in diagnostic imaging departments with equipment that uses radiation. Directors must make sure that the principle of ALARA (as low as reasonably achievable) is upheld, which promotes radiation protection for patients and technologists. Medical physicists work with radiology directors to formulate a radiation monitoring and quality assurance plan for the department.

Radiology directors proactively design patient experience and throughput protocols to ensure a smooth experience for patients and timely delivery of exam results to ordering physicians. In the event of a patient complaint, the director must investigate the situation and follow up with an appropriate action based on the outcome of their findings.

Imaging Quality

Directors oversee the quality of images produced by imaging technologists. Unclear images could result in a misdiagnosis or obscure the results, requiring additional testing. One goal of the radiology director is to minimize such errors, since they can create additional costs for the department and put undue stress on the patient. Imaging departments accredited by the American College of Radiology (ACR) must periodically submit data and evidence of continued compliance with set imaging quality standards. The radiology director takes the lead in preparing and submitting this documentation, forming an action plan if any corrective steps are needed.

Additionally, directors often work with their modality managers to plan quarterly and annual professional development and training for technologists in order to maintain and enhance their skills in producing high quality images and superior patient care.

Department Representation

The radiology director acts as the department’s representative in public or professional settings. Directors may attend board meetings, fundraisers, hospital staff meetings, or political events, and they may also be asked to speak on behalf of the department. Directors serve as advocates for the imaging field, often educating other departments on the unique perspectives and needs of the radiology team.

Administrative Tasks

Administrative responsibilities make up a large component of this position. Some administrative tasks must be done daily, while others can be completed on a monthly, quarterly, or annual cycle. Directors typically:

  • Create and track budgets
  • Make staffing schedules
  • Develop and track department goals and operational targets
  • Manage personnel

Equipment Oversight, Maintenance, and Training

The radiology department relies on its equipment to perform exams that create high quality images. If a machine is not functioning at its optimal level, it could cause delays that impact patient scheduling or force cancellations while the equipment is being repaired.

To avoid such problems, radiology directors proactively work with the equipment manufacturers to maintain and service equipment and purchase new parts and machines when necessary. New equipment can replace outdated machines to increase efficiencies or provide a new tool for the department. In the case of new equipment, it is the director’s responsibility to schedule in-services for staff training on proper use of the machine.

Directors of radiology also help troubleshoot any issues that arise with the equipment and obtain technical assistance for staff members when needed.

Operational Tasks

Specific tasks related to the day-to-day operations of the department consist of:

  • Establishing efficiencies across the department
  • Checking the quality of images produced by technologists
  • Guiding the operation of devices such as fluoroscopes, CT scanners, and MRI machines
  • Making sure staff members follow safety standards

Required Skills for Radiology Directors

Jobs in healthcare require a diverse set of medical, critical-thinking, and organizational skills. As the head of a department, being a radiology director also requires managerial expertise.

  • Clear and effective communication is essential for conveying information on policies and procedures to all levels of staff. Radiology directors must also communicate with doctors, patients, and board members. Communication skills can be improved by taking in-house courses, if available. Outside courses focusing on topics such as cultural sensitivity and conflict resolution can also help strengthen communication capabilities.
  • Interpersonal relations. Working closely with other people requires good interpersonal skills. As the manager of department staff, directors must be comfortable with providing feedback to technologists and nurses. They must also be able to work alongside hospital board members and leadership.
  • Problem solving. As the leader of the department, directors are often called upon to make difficult decisions. Directors must be confident in their judgment to find quick solutions to problems that arise within the department.
  • Analytical thinking. One of a director’s responsibilities is making sure the radiology department is abiding by current laws and regulations. To understand these laws, a radiology director must have strong analytical skills to break down the fine print and discern how new regulations affect operations.
  • Adaptability. New healthcare laws may arise that require a department to make changes to remain compliant. Likewise, new equipment could require changes to imaging protocols or mandate facility updates.
  • Attention to detail. Administrative functions — such as maintaining schedules, managing and tracking the department’s budget, and coordinating billing — are detail-oriented tasks that require meticulous organization and record-keeping skills. Budgets must be closely followed to make sure the department is meeting its financial goals. If not, the director must strategize new operational standards to increase profits.
  • Leadership. To oversee the department, the radiology director must have effective leadership skills. This includes being able to formulate strong training programs and provide resources that encourage staff members to grow in their careers. An effective director encourages good work ethics by exemplifying these traits. By creating a collaborative and supportive work environment, directors can inspire staff to work together to help the department reach its goals.
  • Technical proficiency. Radiology directors must understand the imaging equipment to assess technologists’ performance and act as a resource for technical problems. This means staying up to date on any new software technology or machine upgrades that will increase efficiencies and improve the quality of images.
  • Public relations. As the department representative, the director of radiology needs to be able to speak on behalf of all staff members. This may mean advocating for additional funding from donors or asking the hospital board for an increased budget.
  • Quality control. Directors must oversee regular, intermittent QC (quality control) testing for the department’s medical equipment. In addition, they must evaluate images to ensure that the quality is in accordance with healthcare regulations.

Pathway to Becoming a Radiology Director

Radiology directors are typically required to have several years of hands-on experience. Individuals who are interested in the radiology director profession often enter into the diagnostic imaging field by becoming a radiologic technologist. Technologists operate the imaging equipment and perform procedures on patients. They are tasked with important duties, such as:

  • Explaining procedures to patients
  • Preparing and positioning patients and equipment as necessary to obtain the desired images
  • Setting parameters to produce high-quality diagnostic images

In addition to the technical and operational training acquired through being a technologist, those interested in becoming a director would benefit from gaining supervisory and managerial skills. Through promotions that bring added responsibilities, technologists can learn how to manage budgets and oversee staff. These acquired skills will help qualify a technologist to become a radiology director.

The roles of radiologic technologist and radiology director also typically require some college-level education, and most radiology director positions require at least a bachelor’s degree. These positions often require certification or licensure in most states.

Radiology Director Education Requirements

In addition to gaining several years of experience in the radiology field, there are a number of educational routes that can help lead to the radiology director position. Unlike becoming a physician, which requires very specific schooling and training, radiology director education requirements can take different forms.

  • Associate’s degree — To become a technologist, an associate’s degree is required. It’s possible to advance to the role of radiology director with this certification and years of experience as a technologist in addition to management skills, but employers often look for candidates with more education.
  • Bachelor’s degree — A bachelor’s degree in a field related to radiology puts candidates in a strong position for this job. Many technologists who received an associate’s degree choose to go back to school to complete their bachelor’s in order to qualify for leadership positions, such as radiology director.
  • Master’s degree — While not required, some people pursuing this profession might go on to get a master’s degree. This additional education may make a candidate more marketable as well as knowledgeable about current healthcare trends and issues.
  • Certification — Certification through professional organizations such as the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) is typically required for radiologic professionals. Some professionals might also pursue optional certifications such as the Certified Radiology Administrator (CRA) designation to indicate technical and educational proficiency.

Radiology Director Salary and Job Outlook

The median radiology director salary is $100,980, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Jobs in healthcare are expected to rise as the population becomes older and in greater need of medical services, including diagnostic imaging.

Healthcare management positions are expected to grow by an estimated 18% from 2018 to 2028, which is a much faster growth rate than the average projected for all professions, according to the BLS.

Where Can a Radiology Director be Employed?

Radiology directors can find employment in a number of healthcare facilities. Smaller clinics might not have a radiology department, choosing instead to refer patients to an off-site location for testing, but the following medical centers typically have internal radiology departments:

  • Hospitals
  • Urgent care facilities
  • Private practices
  • Medical laboratories
  • Outpatient care centers

Rise to the Top of a Growing Healthcare Field

Diagnostic imaging is one of the cornerstones of modern medicine. Doctors have the experience and expertise to diagnose a number of medical conditions, but they often rely on diagnostic imaging to inform or validate their findings. Confident and resourceful radiology directors are needed to lead radiology departments across the country, making sure patients get the high quality care that they need.

AdventHealth University Online’s Bachelor of Science in Imaging Sciences — Imaging Leadership Track gives imaging professionals the education and resources they need to advance their healthcare careers. The program’s innovative coursework combines management skill development with classes on a range of imaging modalities. Learn how this online program prepares leaders for success in one of the most important departments in healthcare today.

Recommended Readings

How to Become an MRI Technologist

Health Imaging for Women: Medical Applications, Benefits, and Careers

The Fastest Growing Healthcare Careers

Sources:

ARRT, What Is ARRT Certification and Registration?

Career Trend, “How to Become a Director of Imaging Services”

Economic Research Institute, Medical Radiology Director Salary

MedlinePlus, Imaging and Radiology

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Radiologic and MRI Technologists