Job Satisfaction and Alienation Among Medical Imaging Specialists

Author: Donahue, Karen A.
Although the work of medical imaging specialists is continuing to change with the introduction of increasingly sophisticated and complex technologies, such as diagnostic ultrasound, computerized tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging, the skills of the specialist are being degraded, leading to alienation among the workforce. Additionally, it was found that the medical imaging specialists are not passive objects in the workforce but are actively engaged in making their work environment less alienating.


“ ... If the trends in the hospital which are the object of this case study continue to play out, the future appears to be moving in the direction of a more alienated work environment for its medical imaging specialists. The most important trend observed was an increase in technical complexity and sophistication, which in the case of medical imaging specialists has led to a more minute division of labor. This is, at least in part, a consequence of the separate licensing requirements for different machines. Technologists often are licensed to work with a single machine (for example, X-ray machines, CT scanners, MRIs), limiting their ability to diversify their skills and thereby contributing to their sense of alienation from their work. Even high-technology workers are not free from the alienation that results from increasingly bureaucratized work settings ... By examining the education of medical imaging specialists, conducting a field study of technologists in the workplace, and engaging in intensive interviews of medical imaging specialists, this study provides an opportunity to explore and describe job satisfaction and alienation in the occupation. Dr. Donahue’s study makes an important contribution to our understanding of the sociology of work, particularly in the new, technology-dependent occupations that are arising as the United States transitions from an industrial to a service economy.” – (from the Foreword) Professor Richard P. Appelbaum, University of California-Santa Barbara

“This is a very interesting study of job satisfaction and alienation among medical imaging specialists, a low status medical occupation that, despite its low status, requires fairly extensive training. The study, essentially an ethnography, reveals how a highly bureaucratized workplace can lead to alienation in a Marxian sense and even a kind of Weberian ‘iron cage’ disillusionment. The work represents a major contribution to the sociology of work and occupations ...” – Glenn A. Goodwin, Professor Emeritus, University of La Verne

“ ... What follows from Dr. Donahue’s trenchant introduction is a classic field study that beings by describing in some detail the setting and working conditions of the medical imaging specialists, the changes in training that the workers receive as new technologies appear in the workplace, and the nature of the new technologies themselves and their contribution to the deskilling of work ... this study represents a new contribution to our understanding of the various impacts of technology on the quality of peoples’ lives ...” – Professor Ernie Thomson, University of La Verne

Table of Contents

1. Work and Alienation
2. Medical Imaging Specialists in Ireland
3. Significance and Research Methods of the Field Study
4. The Work Setting
5. Training and Status of the Field
6. Medical Imaging Machine Technology
7. Medical Imaging Specialists with Patients and Co-workers
8. Medical Imaging Specialists and Managers
9. States of Estrangement
10. Conclusion and Policy Implication