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  • 03 August 2017
  • 5 min read

My job as a Diagnostic Radiographer

  • Alice O'Mahony
    Radiographer

Does a career in Radiography interest you? Here are the skills, qualifications and experience required to succeed.

Since qualifying, I’ve been working as a Diagnostic Radiographer, having completed a three-year undergraduate degree in radiography.

I did work experience in a few areas in a hospital, including a children’s and geriatric ward to help me decide on my career.

During these placements, I observed and shadowed doctors, nurses and healthcare assistants, and the visiting physiotherapists.

In my last week, they sent me down to the radiography department where I shadowed radiographers. I was impressed by the different varied work radiographers do, and the high level of patient care and technology employed.

Radiography appealed to me greatly due to the varied workload, the amount of patient contact, the use of technology and technical skills required, and the opportunities to specialise into different areas.

Qualifications

The three years of the degree course are hard work, as there are a lot of placements working full-time hours. Oftentimes the placements took place during the summer where students other courses would be on holidays, for example after our exams in May we had placement blocks of up to fifteen weeks during the summer months.

However, the placements are very interesting, and allow you to gain experience in a wide variety of radiography techniques and modalities.

The three year degree allows you to gain a high level of radiography knowledge and successful completion of the course allows you to gain registration with the Health and Social Care Professionals Council (HCPC), which is a requirement to work in the UK as a radiographer.

Job role

Radiographers are a very important member of the healthcare team, and depending on experience and training they carry out:

• General and trauma x-ray,

• Fluoroscopy (x-rays in ‘real-time’),

• MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scanning,

• CT (Computed Tomography) scanning,

• Nuclear medicine imaging,

• Bone density scans,

• Dental x-rays,

• Ultrasound,

• Theatre x-ray (imaging during a variety of cases such as pain theatre, trauma theatre, orthopaedics, urology),

• Mobile x-rays on the ward (x-raying patients on wards or in resus where they are too sick/injured to come over to the x-ray department),

• Mammography,

• Interventional and cardiac catheterization lab imaging.

Skills

You need to possess certain skills and characteristics to be a radiographer:

• You need to have a genuine interest in healthcare

• You need an interest in science and technology, as it involves using high end equipment such as x-ray machines, CT scanners, MRI scanners, etc.

• You need to be patient focused and a good communicator. The job involves working with patients every day, ranging from neonates to geriatric patients, and everything in between. This requires a practitioner who will be good at communication, and able to adapt these skills to each patient and situation as required.

• You need to be an excellent team player. Radiographers work within teams, working alongside other radiography colleagues, doctors, nurses, healthcare assistants, porters, relatives, etc. Radiographers must be able to communicate well and work alongside them as part of the wider healthcare team.

• You need to be focused and hard working. Radiographers work around the clock, working out of hours in evenings, nights and weekends, in addition to the normal days’ work. You could be on your feet for long periods, working in often stressful situations such as busy A&E departments, or dealing with challenging or stressful situations.

• You MUST be able to cope under pressure.

• You must be physically fit. The job can be physical, and involves using heavy equipment, working long shifts at times, participating in on call shifts, and being involved in the manual handling of patients such as pat-sliding onto beds for their examination.

Career opportunities

A degree in radiography is definitely a good base for further training and study. Radiography is a changing profession, and one where the role of the radiographer is advancing rapidly.

Depending on skills and experience you can work in a range of modalities. There are many opportunities to undertake further study and training up to a master’s level, and you can train to advanced practitioner and consultant practitioner level.

Here you undertake advanced roles such as image interpretation, carrying out certain procedures such as image guided biopsies, or carrying out fluoroscopic examinations.

Image interpretation is a growing area of work for radiographers. They have more and more training to report on X-ray examinations, as well as certain CT examinations such as CT heads and MRI examinations, interpreting the images and producing the final report.

Radiographers can also work in education, research, management or industry. It is possible to work as a clinical tutor, looking after students in the clinical department, or to work in a university as a lecturer on an undergraduate or postgraduate course.

Research radiographer roles are also possible. You can move to applications specialists’ roles, whereby you can be employed by an imaging company and be involved in the sales and applications of new equipment to clinical departments.

Most radiographers work in a hospital setting, working with patients from the ‘cradle to the grave’ and there are so many modalities you can train in if you wish. It is also a job you can travel with.

The degree is recognised worldwide, so you could travel and work abroad depending on experience. Radiographers I have worked with have worked in several places such as Holland, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, and this is a possibility if it is something you wanted to do.

Radiography is an advancing profession, very varied, requires strong patient care and high levels of patient contact, but it’s very rewarding.

There is a high demand for radiographers and, when I qualified, everyone in my year had a job before even sitting their final examinations!

For anyone considering radiography as a career, I would advise undertaking some work experience. Most universities would not consider applications from candidates who haven’t done any work experience in a radiography department. It allows you to gain a real insight into the work of the radiographer and you can observe and shadow examinations to get a feel for the job.

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