Emma is currently a diagnostic radiographer in an Accident and Emergency unit of hospital.
I first found out about diagnostic radiography when I attended a medical careers fair at a local hospital. This gave me the opportunity to talk to people actually doing the job. I liked the sound of the varied nature of the work and the opportunities to work in Accident and Emergency (A&E). They also dispelled my fears about using radiation, by explaining the safety procedures involved. I then arranged some work experience in a local hospital to see what the job was like first hand (a necessary requirement for application to degree courses). Keen on what I saw I decided to apply for diagnostic radiography at university.
I also found out about therapeutic radiography (radiotherapy) but personally didn’t feel at ease with the patient/radiographer relationship which would develop with cancer patients and the uncertainty of the patients’ long-term prospects.
I think it is a lot easier to apply for jobs in hospitals where you have trained, because you are known to them. In my case I moved from the area where I completed my degree back to my original home town; despite my change in location I still had a job secured before I graduated. I sent my CV to the hospital I work in currently and arranged work experience here as part of my elective placement in the final year of my degree. My tip to others is that you need to be proactive about seeking jobs, by arranging visits or work experience in radiography departments. In particular it is a good idea to arrange your final elective placement in a hospital where you would like to work and then hopefully make a good impression.
On average, courses are 50% practical, 50% theory but I chose a course where the time spent on clinical placements was slightly higher. You learn the majority of skills you need for the job on placement, understanding and adapting what you have learnt at university. When you do qualify the biggest difference is that you are now solely responsible for the examinations you perform; this can be a little nerve-wracking to begin with but your degree prepares you fully for this and you can always call upon the expertise of more senior colleagues.
I spend a lot of my time in the main X-ray department, where we X-ray patients referred from their GP and from out-patient clinics, e.g. fracture clinic and various wards. For some patients we take mobile X-ray equipment directly to them on the wards, usually for chest X-rays. We also work in theatres where we use specialist real-time imaging X-ray equipment to assist surgeons during their procedures. Using this imaging technique gives the surgeon the opportunity to view the area under examination as a moving image. One of the biggest challenges is working in A&E. Due to the injuries of these patients they may be unable to cooperate or move themselves. In these cases we need to adapt our technique in order to acquire a diagnostic image. We also have a fluoroscopy department where we conduct numerous investigations; some of these may involve the digestive tract. These are all areas of imaging where a newly qualified diagnostic radiographer would be expected to work.
After about 18 months to two years you can look at specialising in other areas, such as CT, MRI or ultrasound. I work in CT scanning on alternate months, training in this speciality. It is also possible to train for MRI this way. Ultrasound is a little more complex involving about another 18 months' training, including postgraduate study at university.
I love the variety of the role, dealing with patients of all ages and backgrounds, with a range of injuries, illnesses and related concerns. I like working in a variety of departments, from A&E to theatre, to moving around the hospital using portable equipment. Currently I am enjoying working in CT and A&E so would like to spend more time developing my skills in these areas. I’m interested in training in ‘reporting’, this involves interpreting the results of an image, whether it be X-ray or CT. There are growing opportunities in both these areas and long term I envisage choosing one of these modalities to specialise in.
There is also the opportunity to move or travel abroad, e.g. Australia, New Zealand or Canada to continue practising radiography, as degrees in radiography are internationally recognised.
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