BOISE – Idaho is one of six states with no training or certification requirements for those who run X-rays on medical patients, from simple pictures to CT scans and other complicated imagery.
Yet legislation introduced this year to start licensing those technicians in the state is languishing in the Idaho Senate, where it hasn’t gotten a hearing.
“In Idaho, the people that are using radiation don’t have to go to school,” said Mike Gurr, chairman of the Idaho Society of Radiologic Technologists. “And that’s scary when you realize what we do for the medical community.”
All of Idaho’s neighboring states have standards for X-ray techs or radiologic technologists; typically, an associate’s degree level of training is required. The other states that lack any rules are Alabama, Alaska, Missouri, South Dakota and North Carolina.
Washington has a separate category for those who take only the simplest X-rays under a professional’s supervision; they only need to register and have no training requirements. Other states typically refer to those as “limited-scope” practitioners. But Idaho makes no distinction.
Gurr said patients could be endangered if a technician doesn’t position them and shield them properly, or administers too large a dose of radiation. Plus, he said, “An X-ray that’s done improperly won’t show a fracture, it won’t show a blood clot, it won’t show a tiny tumor – it won’t show a big tumor if it’s done poorly. When that happens, you have delay in treatment, you have additional injury in suffering and you have a huge increase in cost in treating someone.”
Gurr’s association worked with Sen. Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, chairman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, to introduce a licensing bill this year, SB 1115.
But Heider said he didn’t think it would pass the committee this year. Heider said he’s open to taking up a version of the bill in his committee next year, particularly if those on all sides of the issue can get together and work out their differences. “The radiologists like it, the hospitals seem to like it,” he said. “The people that don’t like it are the rural communities that don’t have the facilities or the people.”
Steve Millard, president of the Idaho Hospital Association, said, “We’ve vetted it among our members, and there are some supporting it, some saying it needs to be fixed before we could support it.” He added, “The local doctor’s offices, they’re not taking complicated X-rays, and they can’t afford a registered technician; they’re fairly scarce and expensive.”
In Idaho, 50 percent of all facilities that have registered X-ray machines don’t exclusively use trained or certified X-ray techs, Gurr said. “In other words, some of them may have a couple of X-ray techs on board. Most of them have none, because they’re small facilities.”
Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, a retired pediatrician, said it “makes sense to me” to require training for X-ray techs. “The fact is that you do get bad-quality scans and you could have radiation exposure,” he said.