Radiology Nurse Overview

  • What You Will Do: Provide nursing care for the patient undergoing diagnostic imaging procedures and radiation therapy.
  • Where Will You Work: Radiology nurses typically are employed by hospitals, outpatient care facilities, and diagnostic imaging facilities.
  • Employment Projections: Nursing is expected to be the fastest-growing professions, with growth projected at 16% – 26%; similarly, the employment outlook for radiology nurses is on an upward trend, with an expected increased job growth of 19% over the next decade.
  • How Much Will I Earn: The median annual salary for radiology nurses ranges from $41,217 to $165,914, with an average annual salary of $91,000 for Certified Radiology Nurses.
  • Requirements to Become One: Become a Registered Nurse (RN) by completing an accredited nursing program earning an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), then passing the NCLEX-RN examination to obtain licensure.

Steps to Become a Radiology Nurse

  1. Earn Your RN: You must earn an RN degree from an accredited nursing program, earning an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). It is important to note that many employers prefer to hire BSN-prepared nurses.
  2. Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam: All RNs must pass the NCLEX-RN exam to obtain licensure to practice nursing.
  3. Gain Clinical Experience as a Professional Registered Nurse: It is important to gain clinical experience as a professional nurse, in preparation for moving into a specialty role.
  4. Seek Employment in a Radiology Nursing Role. You must have a minimum of 2 years’ experience to be eligible for specialty certification.
  5. Obtain Radiology Nursing Certification: Obtain this certification from the Association for Radiologic and Imaging Nurses (ARIN).
Become a Radiology Nurse

What is a Radiology Nurse?

A radiology nurse provides nursing care for the patient undergoing diagnostic imaging procedures and radiation therapy, as a member of the interdisciplinary team that includes physicians, specialists, and radiology technicians. Primary responsibilities in this role include assessment, planning, and caring for patients who undergo diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. Radiology nurses also educate patients about what to expect during and after radiology procedures, counsel patients regarding their concerns about procedures, and educate patients and families about procedures and other treatment options. Other specific duties include:

  • Preparing the patient on the day of procedure
  • Initiating intravenous access lines
  • Monitoring vital signs and oxygen saturation during procedures
  • Administering special dyes/contrast mediums into patients
  • Administering barium enemas/solutions prior to procedures
  • Administering analgesia and sedation as ordered by physicians.
  • Operating radiology machines and at times reading diagnostic images
  • Reassessing patients after their procedure and providing care until they are ready to be discharged

How Do I Become a Radiology Nurse?

The first step toward becoming a radiology nurse is to become a Registered Nurse, earning at minimum an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN) from an accredited nursing program. Note that many employers prefer to hire BSN-prepared nurses for this role. After graduation, you must obtain RN licensure by taking the NCLEX-RN examination in your state. Once you have achieved state licensure, you will need to gain clinical experience as an RN. Following gaining this experience, then seek employment in a radiology nursing role, in order to progress toward the Certified Radiology Nurse (CNR) credential.

The CNR credential is offered by the Association for Radiologic and Imaging Nurses (ARIN). Eligibility requirements are:

  • Current, unrestricted professional nursing licensure
  • Have completed a minimum of 2,000 hours of experience in radiology nursing within the past 3 years.
  • Have obtained 30 contact hours of continuing education applicable to nursing care of radiology patients within 24 months of the date the candidate sits for the exam. A minimum of 15 of the 30 contact hours must be specifically related to radiology nursing.

Certification is valid for 4 years, and must be renewed by meeting the eligibility requirements for recertification in effect at the time recertification is due, or, if certification is allowed to lapse, the candidate must meet all requirements for initial certification, including taking the exam, in order to become certified again.

Where Do Radiology Nurses Typically Work?

Radiology nurses work within a variety of health care settings;

  • Hospital/medical centers
  • Diagnostic Imaging centers
  • Outpatient facilities such as;
    • Wound Care Clinics
    • Endovascular Clinics

How Much Do Radiology Nurses Earn?

Nursing, in general, is identified as one of the fastest growing professions in the US in terms of salary, with a projected growth of 16% +, much higher than the national average. Specialty certification can increase earnings significantly. The median annual salary for radiology nurses ranges from $41,217 to $165,914, with an average annual salary of $91,000 for Certified Radiology Nurses. This is dependent on the specific job and employer, and the geographical area. Salaries are generally higher in urban areas, however, the cost of living is typically higher, as well. In addition, bachelor’s prepared nurses tend to earn higher salaries than nurses with associate degrees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the top five states for general nursing salaries are (range $96,470 – $102,700);

  • California
  • Hawaii
  • Alaska
  • Oregon
  • Massachusetts

Radiology Nurse Programs

At the undergraduate level, specialty-related education consists of continuing education activities, such as conferences or online CEU providers. For example, the Association for Imaging and Radiology Nurses (ARIN) offers continuing education activities for radiology nurses. Examples of related topics include:

  • Imaging Review
  • MRI Safety and Patient Management
  • Asbestos Related Disease
  • Percutaneous Transluminal Angioplasty
  • Mass Casualty Incidents
  • Interventional Radiology Techniques
  • Enhancing Patient Safety
  • General Anesthesia vs Conscious Sedation
  • Imaging Modalities for Breast Cancer Screening
  • Interventional Radiology Patient Safety

At the graduate level, nurses pursuing radiology as a component of their advanced practice specialty earn a master’s or doctoral level degree in nursing as a Family Nurse Practitioner, an Adult Nurse Practitioner, or a Clinical Nurse Specialist. Within the chosen program students may complete additional coursework in radiological sciences, and complete rotations in radiology and interventional radiology as part of the clinical practice component of the program.

Another option is to pursue a master’s degree in Radiologic and Imaging Sciences. Examples of programs for a master’s degree in Radiologic and Imaging Sciences include:

What is a Typical Radiology Nurse Curriculum?

For nurses pursuing radiology as a component of their advanced practice specialty earn a master’s or doctoral level degree in nursing, master’s level courses needed to achieve additional specialty education in radiology include:

  • Advanced Radiation Protection and Biology
  • Advanced Radiation Physics
  • Advanced Radiologic Quality Assurance
  • Pathology Across Radiology Modalities
  • Medical Imaging in the Digital Environment
  • Case Studies in Medical Imaging
  • Radiology Management
  • Advanced Imaging Modalities

Curricula for Master of Science in Radiation Sciences include courses such as:

  • Management of Imaging Informatics
  • Advances in Technology: Educational and Managerial Issue
  • Advance Practice of Radiologic/Imaging Sciences
  • Seminar in Radiologic/Imaging Sciences
  • Physics & Instrumentation
  • PET Procedures/CT Procedures
  • Noninvasive Testing Principles & Procedures
  • Invasive Procedures
  • Radiographic Physics & Instrumentation
  • Radiobiology & Health Physics

The Role of the Radiology Nurse in the Healthcare Provider Shortage

The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites that employment for nurses will increase at a rate of 16% – %20 by 2024. There is a national shortage of nurses in general related to the Baby Boomer population entering retirement, and the increased health needs of the growing aging population. It is projected that the South and West will be hardest hit by the nursing shortage. The 12 states expected to have the most acute shortages are: Florida, Georgia, Texas, Virginia, Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and New Mexico.

The field of radiology and diagnostic imaging is a rapidly advancing area of healthcare, playing a critical role in diagnosing, managing, and treatment of a variety of conditions and diseases. As such, the employment outlook for radiology nurses remains very positive, with high demand for their specialty skills and knowledge.

Radiology Nurse Resources

References