Case study

Therapeutic radiographer — Curtis Parker-Milnes

Curtis enjoys the mix of technology and patient interaction in his job. Find out how he combines both to be a successful therapeutic radiographer

How did you get your job?

I was interviewed during the third year of my BSc (Hons) radiotherapy and oncology course and was offered a job at Leeds Cancer Centre to start on completion of my degree.

What's a typical working day like?

The role I undertake encompasses the empathetic, caring nature of working in the health service with a very appealing mix of technology and science. At the beginning of the day I'm responsible for undertaking quality assurance checks on machines (linear accelerators) to ensure safe and accurate treatment.

During the day I deliver treatment to lots of people. The treatment is in the form of highly-targeted, high-energy X-rays. The treatment is well tolerated by most people and as technology continues to improve we are able to achieve better clinical outcomes while also reducing side effects.

I see patients on their first day and last day, explain everything I'm going to do and explain what will happen next. I work with students to help them develop their skills and with other professions in the hospital as a multidisciplinary team. The plan is to involve everyone to ensure the team is providing the best care possible.

What do you enjoy most about being a therapeutic radiographer?

I find it really satisfying making people smile. Sometimes people even laugh at my terrible jokes. No matter how much technology advances the outcomes we're able to achieve, there is a very vital element that machines cannot do - human contact.

What are the challenges?

There is a very limited awareness of my role and the work I do. Most people think cancer treatment is solely chemotherapy but my team is involved in the management of at least 40% of all cancer cases.

In what way is your degree relevant?

Everything I studied on my degree led to me becoming a radiographer, legally able and responsible to deliver radiotherapy treatment.

At Sheffield Hallam University I spent approximately half my time in lectures and seminars. The rest of the time I was working clinically in a radiotherapy department, which is where I picked up a lot of skills by hands-on working.

How has your role developed?

Technology is advancing what we are able to do and this means that I have to be very open to adapting to new technologies. Even in the few years that I've been training and since starting work as a radiographer, I have seen an improvement in the way our treatment is delivered.

I'm interested in research so in the future I would be very interested in becoming a clinical academic - a good mixture of research, but in a role where I would still be able to work in a clinical environment.

What advice can you give to others?

Make sure it's definitely for you. There's a big mix of care, empathy and technology. Sometimes the technology aspect is not for everyone. Others much prefer technology to people. Also make sure that you know the difference between therapy and diagnostic radiography. They sound very similar but are two quite different roles.

University is a great opportunity to pick up invaluable life skills and to ask questions to develop your learning so make the most of it. Read the information provided on university websites and attend open days.

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