Depending on the X-Ray school program you go into, you will be going to either hospitals, doctor’s offices, or medical clinics in order to gain real-world experience in becoming an X-Ray tech.
The most common term used to describe this portion of radiography school is clinicals or clinical. There might be other names for this, but for the purposes of this blog, we will just stick with clinicals.
My longest lasting x-ray tech job was working at one of the largest and busiest hospitals in my state. Because of this, we were always up to our ears in x-ray tech students (sometimes 10 at once). In my short ,illustrious career as an x-ray tech, I have had the good fortune of working with many, many x-ray tech students. Some were amazing, and some… well, we will get to that.
Before I start, I just want to say that I HAVE BEEN WHERE YOU ARE, and I sincerely want you to not just get through x-Ray school clinicals, but I also want you to CRUSH them!
This might sound like a no-brainer, but, seriously, you need to take some time to get mentally prepared to not only be around real patients but also real working x-ray techs. At radiography school, it’s all sunshine and rainbows. You get to practice positioning on your classmates, share funny YouTube videos, and avoid the occasional code brown (only hospital techs will get this joke).
Starting clinicals for the first time is kind of like getting pulled from the womb in that you are now being exposed to an entirely new world. No one is saying that you have to be awesome your first day, but there is no reason why you should start clinicals completely clueless either.
Once you find out where your clinical location is, I would recommend you driving there a day or two before your first day. It is also a really good idea to actually go into the facility and find the location where you will need to check-in first thing in the morning. By doing this, you will be able to know exactly how much time is needed in order to get from your home to the time clock. Most radiography clinical instructors are mean, bitter people (I’m joking), so they will have ZERO cares about your excuses of why you were late on your first day.
I would also recommend talking to your upper classmates in order to get the inside information on that particular clinical site. For example, almost every clinical site has that one x-ray tech that for whatever reason doesn’t like students. It is always a good idea to find out beforehand who that person is so you can make sure to keep your distance.
NOTE – If you are a working technologist and you can’t think of who this person is at your facility…well, chances are it might be you!
I can pretty much assure you that you are not going to be put in the Emergency Room on your first day of x-ray school clinicals and told to get to work. Trust me, all the working x-ray techs at your clinical location understand that you are new and none of them are expecting you to know what the heck you are doing, especially on your first day. In fact, it might even take a good couple of weeks before you even shoot your first real x-ray. This x-ray student limbo can get pretty discouraging, but please don’t be. There will be plenty of time to learn and there is never a shortage of patients to x-ray.
One of the best pieces of advice I can give to new x-ray tech students is to find a Jedi knight rad tech and follow them (if they will let you) everywhere they go.
When I was doing my trauma rotation at a level one hospital, I found one rad tech who had been shooting x-rays for about as long as I had been alive, I took to him like white on rice and never regretted it for a second! Yes, he was not always the easiest person to get along with, but because of him, I can shoot a lateral cross-table knee like no one’s business!
Before I go on any further, I am not saying you need to be best friends with all the working x-ray techs. I am simply saying that you should always try to be as helpful as possible. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to be the janitor or anything like that, but you should always try to be at least one step ahead of the rad tech you are following. This means ALWAYS being ready to hand them an extra pillow for the patient, offering to either get the patient or take them back to the waiting room or ED room, changing linens, and/or anything else that will make the tech say, ”that student is a hard worker!” True story, I was offered a job while I was a student solely for doing the things I just mentioned.
I saved the best and most important tip for last!
I have seen so many students make this mistake and pay dearly for it.
- catch up on studying
- make new friends
- write papers
- Look at Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, etc.
- catch up on sleep
- hold up a wall
- talk to other students
X-ray school clinicals are for you to both learn how to be an x-ray tech as well as lay the groundwork for you to get an x-ray tech job!
Let me tell you a little secret. When you get done with school and start applying for jobs, the hiring manager is going to go to all the x-ray techs within the department and ask what they thought about you. In most cases, the feedback they get from these techs will be the deciding factor on whether you get an interview or not.
Unfortunately, no one cares about your second job, how tired/stressed out you are, or why you chronically came in late or missed days. What they care about is if you are a hard worker and are dependable.
Oh, another thing, the x-ray tech community is very small and tight-knit, so if you are planning on burning a bridge at one clinical site, I assure you it is going to get around.
The best advice I can give any x-ray tech student is to bring your A-game every day of x-ray school clinicals! Now everyone is entitled to have an off day here or there, but I can assure you that if you come to x-ray tech school clinicals every day with a positive attitude and a willingness to both learn and help you will at least get put on the list of potential applicants when a new position becomes open.
I sincerely hope this post helps you and feel free to share with your fellow classmates or fellow x-ray techs.