Who Can Take X-Rays in an Urgent Care Center?

Aug 14, 2023 9:24:20 AM / by Chad Hutchison

Disclaimer: The information in this document is solely for reference material. Regulations change often. To be sure of the most up-to-date laws, contact your local and state agencies.

When you're managing an urgent care center, you know that quick, reliable X-ray imaging is critical. But who's qualified to operate this crucial equipment? At Maven Imaging, we're dedicated to supporting healthcare practices like yours to navigate these technical waters. 

We'll delve into who can legally and safely take X-rays in your urgent care setting, be it in chiropractic, podiatry, or veterinary care. It’s important to understand the regulations, certifications, and training needed to ensure your facility is operating safely and effectively.

What’s Required of Prospective Radiologists To Obtain a License?

Becoming a licensed radiologist isn't a walk in the park—it demands rigorous training, commitment, and an unyielding dedication to patient care. But what does the journey look like?

Firstly, after completing an undergraduate degree, prospective radiologists must pursue a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree. This involves four years of intense medical training, and following medical school, they must complete a year-long internship to gain hands-on clinical experience. The internship provides a solid foundation, exposing trainees to various aspects of medicine, which is crucial for the multidisciplinary nature of radiology.

Next comes the residency. It’s a four-year program that dives deep into the world of radiology, covering everything from reading images to performing procedures. During this period, radiologists further develop their expertise and learn to navigate complex diagnostic puzzles.

Finally, to obtain licensure, they must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX). These exams test a broad spectrum of knowledge, ensuring the radiologist is competent and ready to provide high-quality patient care.

Once licensed, many radiologists choose to specialize further through fellowship programs. This allows them to master specific areas of radiology, such as musculoskeletal, breast, or pediatric imaging. Becoming a licensed radiologist is a long but rewarding journey, demanding comprehensive medical knowledge, sophisticated technical skills, and a commitment to excellence in patient care.

Why Are Urgent Care Centers Unable To Meet X-Ray Demands?

Urgent care centers play a crucial role in our healthcare system, providing immediate care for non-life-threatening conditions. However, they often struggle to meet the growing demand for X-ray imaging services. Several factors contribute to this challenge.

Firstly, staffing is a common issue. With the rigorous training and licensing process required, there’s a limited pool of licensed radiologists, making it difficult for many urgent care centers to have one available at all times. Additionally, other staff members, like radiologic technologists, who are also crucial in the imaging process, might be in short supply.

Next, cost and space are also significant constraints. The acquisition, installation, and maintenance of urgent care X-ray equipment can be expensive. Additionally, these machines require dedicated space, often limited in urgent care facilities.

Then there's the matter of patient volume. Urgent care centers need to manage high patient traffic efficiently, and X-rays can be time-consuming, from image capture to interpretation. This can lead to longer wait times, straining both patients and staff.

Lastly, regulatory requirements for radiation safety and quality assurance also add complexity. Centers must comply with standards for equipment maintenance, staff training, and safety procedures, which can be challenging to implement and sustain.

Overcoming these obstacles requires strategic planning, innovative solutions, and robust support systems. By understanding these challenges, we can work towards making high-quality X-ray services more accessible in urgent care centers.

How Can This Be Resolved?

Limited Scope X-Ray

Within many states, a potential solution lies in the concept of "limited scope X-ray technicians" or "basic X-ray machine operators." These technicians, often referred to as LXMOs, have a different range of functions compared to fully licensed radiologic technologists (RTs). 

With a narrower, specific set of skills, LXMOs offer a viable alternative for urgent care centers. They can handle a limited range of imaging procedures, making them a cost-effective staffing solution. However, challenges arise when states impose conditions such as having these technicians work under direct physician supervision.

Video Supervision and Telemedicine

The growth of telemedicine presents a unique solution to address the challenges faced by urgent care centers. Using real-time video supervision, an RT could potentially guide and oversee a medical assistant remotely. This teleradiology model could transform the way X-ray procedures are performed. 

The assistant, on-site, would act as the "hands" of the remote RT, positioning the patient and even operating the X-ray machine under the guidance of the off-site RT. This approach not only addresses staffing concerns but capitalizes on the widespread adoption of telemedicine as an integral part of healthcare.

Regulatory Changes

A more direct approach to resolving the issue involves re-evaluating and changing the current regulatory landscape. By adapting laws to allow limited-scope X-ray technicians to work in urgent care settings without the necessity of direct physician oversight, we can make the imaging process more efficient. 

Persistent legislative advocacy, combined with ongoing education and awareness campaigns, might be the key to influencing change at the policy level, making urgent care centers more equipped to handle X-ray demands.

Need an X-Ray System for Your Urgent Care Practice? We Can Help.

Navigating the world of medical imaging can be challenging, especially when equipping an urgent care practice. Whether you're starting from scratch or looking to upgrade, Maven Imaging is here to assist you every step of the way. We understand the unique needs of urgent care centers and offer tailored X-ray solutions to fit those requirements.

Why settle for less when you can have the best equipment that ensures efficient, accurate, and rapid imaging? With Maven Imaging by your side, you're not just investing in equipment but in quality, reliability, and ongoing support.

Ready to elevate your practice? Explore our range of urgent care digital X-ray systems and see how we can make a difference. Whether you have questions or are ready to discuss your options, we're here to guide you. Don't delay – your patients deserve the best.

Tags: X-ray System

Chad Hutchison

Written by Chad Hutchison

Founder and CEO of Maven Imaging, Chad Hutchison has been in the medical imaging equipment market since 2003. As his business grew, he pioneered buying and selling medical equipment online and eventually began offering leasing and financing to meet market demands and help customers. His market expertise goes beyond traditional medical imaging and finance support, as he’s spearheading cloud-based lending solutions for vendors across the sector.