Radiology Nurses Play Invaluable Role at UCSF Imaging

Ellen Makela, RN proves patient support during an IR procedure with Robert Kerlan, MD, FSIR.

In the UCSF Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, the radiology nursing staff is rich with nursing experience, clinical skills and versatility to manage a wide range of responsibilities. However, perhaps the most important trait the radiology nurses bring to the table may be their ability to deliver world-class comfort and safety to patients who undergo diagnostic and therapeutic imaging procedures.

The department’s 48 radiology nurses and five nurse practitioners put the patient experience first, providing the highest quality of safety and care while keeping up with the industry’s cutting-edge technologies and procedures. “Caring for patients having procedures with imaging guidance presents unique challenges, so the nurses work along with the technologists and radiologists as a team to maximize patient safety and patient satisfaction,” explains Charlene Fong, administrative nurse, at UCSF.

Nurses in UCSF Imaging see patients in most of the imaging modalities, including CT, MRI, fluoroscopy, mammography, diagnostic, and with procedures in the interventional radiology (IR), neuro interventional and nuclear medicine subspecialties. They often assist with patients who are having CT/MRI scans with contrast by starting IVs and checking labs, or answering questions about the procedure to help make the experience less stressful. Across all sites, UCSF nurses assist with approximately 4,700 contrast-enhanced studies each month. Additionally, nurses specially trained to assist with procedural sedation and management of the patient during minimally invasive procedures are involved with 1,000 procedures each month in which patients need conscious sedation or anesthesia and monitoring.

Across all campuses, the staff of nurses and nurse practitioners are busy assisting patients, taking on roles in growing subspecialties and leading departmental projects:

  • Our Radiology nurses at Mission Bay are specially trained to work with pediatric patients who need imaging services.  They assist with infants and children and their families through the entire process.
  • At Mission Bay, radiology nurses were trained and assisted with the first Y-90 peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT) procedure in the country. We anticipate this program to be expanded soon.
  • The volume continues to grow in all modalities at all sites, and as a result the team has added nursing positions to assist with the extended hours of service and with new procedures in the department.
  • One of the radiology nurses is taking on a new role as clinical nurse coordinator. She will be overseeing two programs: the image-guided biopsy program and the lung cancer screening program. We are working with her to transition her into being the central point person for (mass lesion) image-guided biopsies.
  • For patients who have specific pacemakers and need an MRI at Parnassus, our nurses are now able to monitor these patients during the MRI to ensure they are imaged safely.
  • With the addition of a nurse practitioner at Mount Zion IR, the service and efficiency of our out-patient IR program has been enhanced.
  • The nursing staff are also preparing for the recertification of UCSF as a Magnet hospital – a national recognition and acknowledgment of excellence in nursing at UCSF, which demonstrates the importance of nurses to the success of the entire organization.


At UCSF Imaging, radiology nurses and nurse practitioners play a vital role in clinical care and ensuring the department runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Stay tuned for more information on UCSF’s recertification process.

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