Mobile X-Ray

I have been a Registered Radiologic Technologist for thirteen years.   My experience has primarily been in the hospital setting, that is, until six months ago.  After being away from the field for some time I needed to find a job, and there was an opportunity to jump into Mobile x-ray.  This niche of x-ray captivated my attention when I was in school, and I wondered what it would be like to be a mobile X-ray technician.  I have a vivid imagination – the freedom of being out on the road, no one looking over your shoulder checking your every move.  No “film passers” to run by.  You can have your cell-phone on, listen to the radio, and drive through Tim Horton’s as often as you want (or can afford on a mobile x-ray salary).  Oh, yes it sounds intriguing, romantic, or dreamy, perhaps.

There are a few things I have discovered about Mobile x-ray along the way.

Mobile x-ray is far from the sterilized environment of a hospital x-ray room.  The clean tables and sanitized sheets do not exist.  It is more of a rugged outdoors environment.  The list of procedures and methods must be thrown out the window, for there are no ideal patients or circumstances.  The adjustable buckies and lock in tubes are replaced with a good eye, a few pillows, and some American Ninja-like acrobatics.  There are no stretchers that wheel patients to you, but in all cases you go to them in whatever places they may be.  I x-rayed the extreme hoarder (it was very difficult to get my machine in the house, and to maneuver it once it was inside), and the 600 pound man, who does not believe in wearing clothes.  These were done in the “comforts” of their own homes, of course I am not sure who was comfortable in either place.  Could you imagine if the 600 pound man lived in the extreme hoarder’s house?  There would be a lot of stuff getting knocked off and around.  In the hospital I used to tell people how I once x-rayed John the Baptist (Juan Baptiste), Jesus (Hey Seuss), and Jennifer Lopez all in the same day, but that’s nothing compared to Mobile x-ray.

The other day I discovered mobile x-ray at its finest.  I had to pull my portable x-ray machine up five stairs into the mudroom of a patient’s house.  The machine was plugged into a faulty outlet – which electrocuted both the patient’s wife and I more than once.  My patient is a man with Parkinson’s disease who had difficulty walking, yet because the machine is too heavy to take up the other forty stairs, the poor man had to walk down them and sit in a rickety old wooden chair on a platform about four feet above me so we could take the x-ray.  If only you could have observed this taking place.  It truly was the essence of Mobile X-Ray.  Getting good pictures under such circumstances takes skill; this is why I am convinced that Mobile X-ray is an art-form.  Everything must be done unconventionally, outside of the safe, controlled, institutional environment.

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Another time I was working out of Kane, Pa which is located in the Allegheny National Forest.  After getting lost in my attempt to find the dirt-road, named after my patient, I arrived to discover that they did not have a driveway.  I had to schlep my x-ray machine through a grassy field, and over a couple ditches to get to the living room for the pictures.

Some people are intrigued by the way we get the x-ray machine into the car.  The machine is winched into the back of a Chevrolet HHR with a rope and crank system.  The rope has a latch that clips onto a handle on the top of the x-ray machine.  The machine is tipped back, and the automatic crank (i.e. my right arm) begins to turn the crank, lifting the machine into the vehicle where it will rest in a supine position.  The inventor must have learned a thing or two from MacGyver.  We can go anywhere or to anyone, as long as there are not more than five stairs to haul the machine up.  We have bicycle tire pumps to fill up the air of the ten inch tires on the x-ray machine.  The new equipment has a laptop mounted on the top and a digital plate that replaces the old film cassette.  The plate has a long cord connected to it that sends the image to the laptop.  After I take my exposure there is an instant picture seen on the laptop.  Gone are the days of Mobile x-ray technicians trucking their cassettes to the nearest hospital with a processor to develop the films.  Technology has changed the face of X-ray across the board, but nowhere is this more evident than in the Mobile X-ray business.

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Whoever envisioned mobile x-ray was very clever.  For those who are shut in (because of incarceration or otherwise), living in nursing homes, or group homes it is possible for us to come to you for a lower cost than being transported to the hospital.  With the modern digital equipment our images are superior in quality than a hospital that is running CR equipment.

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I have enjoyed my mobile x-ray experience so far, and look forward to seeing what new adventures await me on my journey.

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