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X-ray Airmen: Seeing beneath the surface; minimizing risk

Staff Sgt. Scott Hoppe, 36th Medical Support Squadron diagnostic imaging technician, prepares to take an X-ray scan of a patient May 23, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. X-rays taken at the radiology department are used to assist the doctors with their diagnoses. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Arielle Vasquez/Released)

Staff Sgt. Scott Hoppe, 36th Medical Support Squadron diagnostic imaging technician, prepares to take an X-ray scan of a patient May 23, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. X-rays taken at the radiology department are used to assist the doctors with their diagnoses. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Arielle Vasquez/Released)

Tech. Sgt. Tianna Weymer, 36th Medical Support Squadron diagnostic imaging NCO in charge of the radiology department, adjusts settings on an X-ray machine May 24, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Airmen use the machine to determine the field of exposure on a patient. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Arielle Vasquez/Released)

Tech. Sgt. Tianna Weymer, 36th Medical Support Squadron diagnostic imaging NCO in charge of the radiology department, adjusts settings on an X-ray machine May 24, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Airmen use the machine to determine the field of exposure on a patient. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Arielle Vasquez/Released)

An X-ray scan of a patient’s back is displayed on a screen May 24, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Similar to still photography, X-rays are typically used for imaging bones. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Arielle Vasquez/Released)

An X-ray scan of a patient’s back is displayed on a screen May 24, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. Similar to still photography, X-rays are typically used for imaging bones. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Arielle Vasquez/Released)

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- When medical providers need to find the root cause of a patient’s injury or pain, they rely on timely delivery of quality images for accurate readings.

A small team of two diagnostic imaging technicians at the Andersen Air Force Base Clinic use non-invasive techniques to create pictures of the bones and organs to give medical professionals the inside look into their patient.

Just like taking a good photograph, said Staff Sgt. Scott Hoppe, 36th Medical Support Squadron diagnostic imaging technician, the radiology experts ensure the angle, technique and perspective are all accurate when taking X-ray scans. Only a clear exposure can give doctors and nurses an accurate picture of possible complications and allow for the right diagnoses.

“Our job is to make sure the images are of diagnostic quality and show everything that needs to be shown,” Hoppe said. “The settings and position of the patients must be correct to allow doctors to interpret images and form a diagnosis.”

While Andersen AFB does not have a full hospital, the radiology team serves an average of 60 patients a week on a walk-in basis.

After a patient sees a primary care provider, they check in with radiology and the technicians verify their data. After reviewing the areas of the body they need to capture the team determines the right settings for their scan, explained Tech. Sgt. Tianna Weymer, 36th MDSS diagnostic imaging technologist and NCO in charge of diagnostic imaging.

Once a patient’s X-ray scan is complete, the Airmen send the images to one of three radiologists at U.S. Naval Hospital Guam for a full evaluation. When needed, the technicians are also qualified to offer routine or immediate readings in tandem with the primary care provider when need for an immediate diagnosis, making the Airmen of the radiology department essential for the treatment of Airmen and their families. The initial readings are then reviewed by U.S. Navy radiologists within 24 to 48 hours for confirmation.

“Attention to detail is crucial for us,” Hoppe said. “If we don't look closely at the smallest things or use the right techniques, we could miss something.”

Although the job can prove to be challenging at times, both Hoppe and Weymer said they enjoy taking care of patients and improving their treatment process at the clinic.

“What I love about this job is being able to help people,” Weymer said. “When a patient trusts you to do everything you can to find out what’s wrong and you can find out what’s causing it, that's a relief. It's rewarding to take care of patients and give them the closure on a condition they have.”