During a September 10 session at the North Carolina Biomedical Association annual meeting in Concord, NC, Dale Cover, president of RSTI, spoke with a small group of conference attendees about managing a career transition from biomed to imaging technician. Although the change involves professional and personal tradeoffs, Cover said, switching to an imaging track generally offers more opportunities for long-term growth.

HTM professionals considering an imaging specialty often come to the decision for a few key reasons, Cover said: professional burnout, an opportunity to perform varied and interesting work, and higher pay. Often, they have reached a middle or senior level as a biomed, and further promotion requires developing new skills. While a senior-level BMET will take a pay cut as an entry-level imaging technician, Cover said, a top-level imaging technician could make significantly more than his or her biomed counterpart. There is also a national shortage of qualified imaging technicians, so job opportunities can be plentiful, especially for those willing to relocate.

Despite these advantages, Cover noted, a number of potential intimidators exist: career biomeds used to a feeling of competence can be reluctant to start over at the bottom of the knowledge ladder. While biomeds typically deal with nursing staff, imaging technicians often interact directly with physicians, who are sometimes seen as impatient or demanding. An imaging technician’s schedule is also less predictable than a biomed’s, and more susceptible to unscheduled overtime: the cost of imaging equipment downtime, in terms of patient care and hospital revenue, is so high that repairs are usually urgent. That can mean unpredictable late nights or working weekends, which can wreak havoc on a family.

For those looking to pursue new career opportunities, however, training is the way forward. According to Cover, biomeds stand a better chance of persuading their employer to pay for imaging classes if they can demonstrate how it would benefit their facility. Self-pay is a less attractive option, but the need for imaging technicians is so great, and the pay is high enough, that newly minted imaging technicians can recoup their investment relatively quickly. (At RSTI, training for the first two levels of x-ray equipment servicing costs about $10,000.)