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Radiography Tech or Medical Sonographer? Finding an Introvert-Friendly Career Fit

Are you interested in human anatomy and medicine? Are you proficient in science and math, and have decent technical skills? Are you a detail-oriented person? If you answered yes to these questions, you could have the skill set for a rewarding career as either a radiography technologist or a medical sonographer. Which niche, though, is a better fit for your personality? Here are some points to consider in your choice if you tend to be an introvert.

Are you an introvert?

Maybe your kindergarten teacher labeled you as shy. Or your parents worried that you would rather have your nose in a book than play sports with other children. You may have marveled at how easily some of your high school classmates made friends. But are you truly introverted?

Introversion is not a bad thing, and it does not equate to social anxiety or extreme shyness. According to Verywell Mind1, it is merely "a personality trait characterized by a focus on internal feelings rather than on external sources of stimulation."1 The 2019 article indicates up to 40% of the population is made up of introverts. The source emphasizes that few people are entirely extroverted or introverted – most have a comfort zone somewhere in the middle.1

A comparison from Officevibe2 puts the two personalities in perspective.

With a more reserved and inwardly focused nature, an introvert is likely to:

  • Recharge by spending time alone.
  • Enjoy a one-on-one conversation.
  • Have close relationships with a small number of people.
  • Listen more.
  • Not be motivated by attention.
  • Share personal feelings with a few individuals they know and trust.
  • Express ideas and information when asked.2

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A gregarious extrovert enjoys being around and communicating with others. This outgoing person recharges through social interactions and loves attention. Because an extrovert has so many friends, relationships bonds may not be as strong. Extroverts open up easily and to almost anyone. You can count on them to speak up in group conversations, without prompting.

There are several important distinctions in the workplace context:

  • An introvert tends to reflect before making a decision and think before speaking. An extrovert reasons things out by talking and makes decisions quickly.
  • An extrovert embraces change more easily than an introvert.
  • An introvert favors a quiet work environment, while an extrovert thrives on bustling interaction.
  • An introvert usually has the ability to maintain mental focus. An extrovert may get distracted more easily.2

With this deeper understanding of the traits of both personality types, you should have a good idea of whether you lean toward introversion. Many introverted traits are advantageous in either medical sonography or radiography. So, which career path is a better match? Keep reading for further insight.

Front-line perspective

The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) indicates that "Most radiologic technologists enter the profession as radiographers. In this role, you'll capture images of patients' internal organs, soft tissues, and bones using X-ray equipment. You also might assist radiologists with a range of procedures, such as fluoroscopic imaging or gastrointestinal exams that require the use of contrast media."4

The same organization says, “As a sonographer, you’ll operate specialized equipment, using nonionizing, high-frequency sound waves to create images of a patient’s internal organs and tissues. You’ll perform the procedures for a variety of purposes—including creating images of an unborn child.”5

To someone outside the field, those descriptions sound similar. To an insider, there are significant technical differences – primarily the use of radiation vs. sound waves. However, there are also differences in the level of human interaction.

A recent Reddit thread on the subject of “Radiography tech vs medical sonography, which is more introvert-friendly?” revealed personal insight. The conversation captured glimpses such as:

  • “Patient interaction is like half of the job when it comes to both radiography and ultrasound.”
  • “From my limited experience, I’d say x-ray. But I feel it should be said that even in X-ray, you will need to be able to hold a conversation with a total stranger when necessary."
  • "I'd guess radiography tech. As a fairly introverted ultrasound tech, some days are mentally and emotionally draining, but I still love it."
  • "Introvert here. I am a radiology tech in a fast-paced outpatient clinic. I like that the patient care is short term. My patients are fine with me not saying much during an exam."
  • “I think certain days, certain exams are going to be mentally taxing no matter which field. What’s really going to make the difference is finding which one you actually enjoy more.”6

That discussion illustrates that X-ray techs tend to have briefer, less personal contact with patients – circumstances which probably appeal more to introverts.

In support of this finding (in the same Reddit thread), one participant said, "Sonographer here! I'm an extrovert and love it. A lot of my time is interacting with people. Calling nurses/doctors to clarify orders/get patients, interacting with the patient, other staff, and then actually spending 100% face to face time with the patient while you're scanning them. And a lot of the time they have family/whoever else with them. So you spend a lot of time with people all day. I guess it also depends on the hospital too. But still, when you're scanning, you're with the patient lol. Like right up in their face."6

As an introvert, you might not be equipped for the level of daily interaction and personal touch involved with sonography. Gender is also a consideration. Florida National University cautions, “Males interested in becoming sonographers might not know that 85-90% of sonographers are women. Just as with gynecologists, this can present a challenge for men when they realize some female patients prefer a female sonographer for breast, abdominal, and pelvic ultrasounds. Conversely, male patients might feel the same way, preferring a male sonographer for scrotal and pelvic ultrasound procedures."3

A participant in The Student Doctor Network sums it up best with, "Overall, don't think it matters that much. Medicine accommodates for both in and extrovert."7 Ultimately, both sonographers and rad techs are drawn to the work because of an innate desire to help others. The key to finding your niche is embracing your personality type and finding employment with a healthcare organization that values the unique qualities you bring to the job.

References:

  1. 8 Signs You're an Introvert. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/signs-you-are-an-introvert-2795427 October 15, 2019.
  2. The Key Differences Between Introverts And Extroverts. Officevibe. https://www.officevibe.com/blog/differences-introverts-extroverts October 15, 2019.
  3. 7 Things to Know Before Studying Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Technology. Florida National University. https://www.fnu.edu/7-studying-diagnostic-medical-sonographer-technology/ October 15, 2019.
  4. Radiography. American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. https://www.arrt.org/earn-arrt-credentials/credential-options/radiography October 15, 2019.
  5. Sonography. American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. https://www.arrt.org/earn-arrt-credentials/credential-options/sonography October 15, 2019.
  6. Radiography tech vs. medical sonography, which is more introvert-friendly? Reddit. https://www.reddit.com/r/Radiology/comments/cauppt/radiography_tech_vs_medical_sonography_which_is/ October 15, 2019.
  7. Is Radiology more suited for introverts or extroverts? The Student Doctor Network. https://forums.studentdoctor.net/threads/is-radiology-more-suited-for-introverts-or-extroverts.943895/ October 15, 2019.