HISTORICAL OVERVIEW OF RADIOLOGIC TECHNOLOGY LICENSURE
Since the discovery of x-rays in 1895, the profession of radiologic technology has been in the process of constant research and development. This research has resulted in improvements in medical imaging equipment standards, efficient radiographic procedures, and most importantly, well educated professional radiologic technologists. These enhancements have created a safer radiological environment for the patient.
The radiologic technologists who comprise the profession, and the students who are entering it, contribute greatly to the diagnosis and treatment of disease through their expertise and understanding of the safe operation of highly specialized and complicated equipment. Yet, many of their contributions are of a "silent" nature. The reward they reap is knowing that they have contributed to improved patient care through their specialized education.
Radiation is unique in that it cannot be detected by sight, touch, smell, hearing or taste. Its proper use can save lives but its abuse may ultimately harm patients. Because of this inherent risk, it is every patient's right to have their radiographic procedure performed by licensed radiologic technologists who are knowledgeable of the proper techniques and the associated risks of involved in these procedures.
It is this very concept that prompted the New Jersey legislature in 1968 to pass the Radiologic Technologist Act (Act) which requires all operators of medical ionizing radiation producing equipment to be licensed. New Jersey was the second state to pass this much needed legislation. To date, 35 states and Puerto Rico have enacted legislation that requires radiologic technologists to be licensed. Additionally, 28 states license radiation therapy technologists and 21 states license nuclear medicine technologists.
Prior to this Act, the potential for indiscriminate use of x-ray equipment existed. Operators, for the most part, were untrained and uninformed of the potential effects of the misuse of ionizing radiation. Sixty-five percent of the individuals operating x-ray equipment in New Jersey prior to 1968 had little or no training and were not credentialed by any agency to operate x-ray equipment. The remaining thirty-five percent of the individuals were credentialed by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists which was, and still is, a national voluntary certification agency.
In 1980, the Commission on Radiation Protection promulgated New Jersey Administrative Code Title 7 Chapter 28 Subchapter 24 that requires individuals performing nuclear medicine procedures to be licensed by the Department of Environmental Protection (Department).
In 1981 Congress passed Public Law 97-35 entitled "Consumer-patient Radiation Health and Safety Act of 1981." This law recommends (but does not require) states establish educational standards for operators of medical ionizing radiation producing equipment and require licensure of these individuals. New Jersey met and exceeded these recommendations several years prior to the federal regulations.
It is widely recognized by medical practitioners, medical physicists, and other scientists concerned with radiation protection that radiation exposure due to medical uses of ionizing radiation represents a significant and growing source of exposure for the United States population. It is also one source that can be reduced by good practice. The National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements has concluded that "There can be no rational means... to limit radiation exposure prescribed for patients from necessary and proper diagnostic or therapeutic purposes. Steps can be taken to minimize unnecessary or medically unproductive radiation exposure both in utilizing the newest technological advances as well as employing well educated and licensed radiologic technologists.
Through the administration of New Jerseys licensure program, the Department has revealed its interest in high quality health care and that patient welfare is of paramount concern. Licensure helps to ensure that only competent individuals are permitted to engage in the practice of radiologic technology. The goal of our licensure program is to ensure that patients receive the benefits of high quality radiological procedures without unnecessary exposure to ionizing radiation.