Texas has about 28,000 licensed X-ray technicians, but if the state follows the recommendation of an advisory commission, the piece of paper that certifies that they’re qualified to dose you with radiation won’t be necessary.
The state, according to the Texas Tribune, might decide that radiologic technologists, as well as several other categories of health professionals, no longer need a license to do their jobs. What the members of the Department of State Health Services’ Sunset Advisory Commission don’t seem to understand is that licensing the people with the potential to cause serious harm is a measure of protection against lack of training and ability. (See our backgrounder on radiation overdose injuries.)
The commission, which is charged with identifying inefficiencies in state government, believes licensing is regulatory redundancy because people receive X-rays, MRIs and CT scans in health-care facilities that themselves are highly regulated. By that logic, no hospital that surpasses all oversight measures ever grants practice privileges to a surgeon who – oops! – leaves a sponge inside a patient.
Such medical errors happen, but they’re less likely to occur if practitioners regularly prove they’re worthy of the trust placed in them.
Besides Texas, 10 other states do not require imaging technicians to be licensed, and you have to wonder why. As the vice president of government relations and public policy for the American Society of Radiologic Technologists told The Tribune, “Everyone knows that radiation is a carcinogen. If performed incorrectly, it’s a direct risk to public health and safety,” said Christine Lung.
In addition to administering X-rays, CT scans, MRIs and other kinds of imaging, radiologic technologists also perform interventional procedures, such as injections and IV placement. The procedures measures can deliver high doses of radiation that must be within millimeters of accuracy, and can pose a risk of infection.
“It’s not just point and shoot X-ray,” Lung said.
Along with imaging techs, the commission suggests there’s also no need to license respiratory care practitioners, perfusionists (people who monitor the heart-lung machine during open heart surgeries), dietitians and opticians.
We’re relieved that the commission’s report was met with skepticism by at least some legislators. “Your charge was to make sure that each profession is administered and licensed in a way that is the least burdensome possible,” said one state senator, according to The Tribune. “But we’ve all gotten a lot of phone calls.”
But, this is Texas, which often leads the nation in worker fatalities but is the only state that does not require private employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance or a private equivalent. This is Texas, where the political hunger to cut, cut, cut government, even government that protects people from harm, is insatiable. So of course the senator is appointing a subcommittee to devise a modified proposal that “has a realistic chance of passing the Legislature.”