FROM FUSION: AN INDEPENDENT EDUCATIONAL PUBLISHING MAGAZINE

Case study: Radiography

Emma Backhouse gives the inside story on becoming a hospital radiographer

From a very young age I wanted to go into healthcare. The first thing that got me into it was that my brother suffered from a condition where he had to have regular physiotherapy, and that prompted me to want to work in a hospital. In the sixth form, I went to see a careers adviser - she suggested physiotherapy and radiography. At the time I didn't know much about radiography so I went to Cambridge hospital and did some work experience. They showed me what the different aspects of radiotherapy were. I shadowed the radiographers in the hospital and got shown around all the X-ray rooms. A lot of people are under the impression that X-rays are just a plain X-ray of your chest and don't think of all the other aspects such as CT and MR scans, ultrasound and nuclear medicine.

Over the next two years of sixth form I aimed to get the necessary grades in my psychology, human biology and English language A-levels. They recommend that you do physics at A-level if you want to go into radiography, though having said that I managed perfectly well without one! I then applied to universities around the country, having looked through UCAS and gone to lots of different open days and visits. Then I started doing my degree in radiography once I was accepted at my first choice, which was Cranfield University.

During the three-year course we did a lot of human biology in order to look at how the body works. We also did a great deal of physics to see how X-rays are made (and the processes behind it) and looked at radiation - how it affects the body and protection against it. Management is also covered, as well as research, essay writing and an overall view of how a hospital works. There is a lot of work on how to read images, such as how to tell between a plain X-ray and a CT, which is a 3D image.

We had exams at the end of each year and a dissertation at the end of the third year (some universities don't have final year exams, just a dissertation in the third year). We'd spend three months at the hospital and three months at university throughout the year. At the end of the three years you are then a qualified radiographer.

I started my first job at Leighton Hospital in Cheshire where I worked for a year. I spent the first six months getting to grips with things and working on my own doing plain X-rays, and after that I went into different areas of radiography. They had a mentoring system so there would always be someone to help me if I had any problems.

I moved hospital to Swindon - where I am now - and have achieved a lot more now that I feel more competent and confident. I've moved into CT scanning and am just starting a barium enema course, where you look at the large bowel.

As you become more senior you have more responsibility. You can end up in a management role and become a superintendent, running an area of the department. It depends what you want to achieve and what opportunities you have. There are so many aspects that you can specialise in that it seems almost never-ending; I'm definitely glad that I chose to spend those three years at university training in radiography.

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