A year after becoming a consultant, Jimmy reflects on how his career as an interventional radiologist has allowed him to be at the cutting edge of medicine
How did you get your job as a radiologist?
Following medical school, I completed my house jobs (internship) followed by a period of surgical training. I also took some time out to complete a research degree prior to applying to a radiology training scheme, which is five years and leads to completion of specialist training when you can apply for consultant jobs.
My journey into radiology is somewhat convoluted and doctors can now enter radiology training directly after two years of Foundation Training. However, some doctors choose to gain additional clinical experience prior to entering radiology to better prepare them for the role. Interventional radiology requires an extra year of training (six years in total) and there has been a trend towards competitive entry.
How is your medical degree relevant to a career in radiology?
To be an interventional radiologist, you need to first finish your undergraduate medical training, then Foundation Training followed by six years of specialty training including completion of a tough Fellowship exam (FRCR).
What's a typical day as an interventional radiologist like?
On days when I perform procedures, I typically start just before 8am. I discuss the treatment with each patient and answer any questions they may have prior to the procedure. This is followed by a team briefing when all the cases of the day are discussed. The rest of the day involves performing procedures and taking emergency referrals for cases. The cases are usually a mix of elective and acute cases. When I'm on call, I work from 8am until 5pm the next day, but otherwise I usually finish by 6pm. On days when I don't perform procedures, I'm involved in vetting and reporting diagnostic imaging such as CT and MRI, as well as performing other diagnostic imaging such as ultrasound.
What do you enjoy most about being an interventional radiologist?
Interventional radiology is one of the best jobs in medicine. It's at the forefront of innovation and requires not only a large breath of knowledge and a strong commitment to developing a unique set of technical skills, but also a serious amount of creativity and lateral thinking. Often the cases we see have never been encountered before and so procedures have to be invented on the spot. In our field, we often see the immediate effect on patients' health, which is truly rewarding. Very few other specialities allow us to look inside the human body in such detail as we do.
What are the challenges?
Many people outside medicine don't realise that radiologists are doctors. We see some of the sickest patients in the hospital and often they have no other treatment options, besides the ones we can provide. Unlike diagnostic radiology where the pace is generally a bit more relaxed (but still highly challenging), the workload and intensity in interventional radiology can be a lot more demanding.
What's your advice to someone wanting to become a radiologist?
Radiology, and in particular interventional radiology, is increasingly competitive. It requires dedication and commitment, but is also rewarding. Increasingly, many conditions that were conventionally treated pharmacologically or by invasive surgery can now be performed by interventional radiology, which offers the benefit of being targeted (delivering treatment to where it is needed) and minimally invasive. In essence, it can be considered as image guided or pin-hole surgery.
My top tips are:
- Be a clinician first and a radiologist a very, very close second.
- Read, read, read.
- Always put patients first.
Find out more
- Learn more about the role of a radiologist.