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HANNAH’S JOURNEY INTO DIAGNOSTIC RADIOGRAPHY (UWE Healthcare Heroes project)

11th January 2021

A women holding a sign about being a student radiographer
Student Radiographer, Hannah

Current position: Just finished my third year as a diagnostic radiographer, so now qualified. Student Ambassador at University of the West of England Bristol (UWE).

Top piece of advice: It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what you want to do yet. If it takes 10-20 years to find what you love then that is OK. Try and explore all your options and don’t take something just because you think that’s what is expected of you, or the only thing your grades will allow. If you want something enough you will get there eventually. 

Education: BSc (Hons) Diagnostic Imaging 1st Class; A level Biology (C), PE (B) and Dance (B); 11x GCSEs Grade A*- B. PE classed as a science so I was able to keep this selection and still do the degree I chose. I didn’t do as well in my A levels as I had hoped for but I also didn’t enjoy them very much- whereas I loved my degree and the work didn’t feel hard because I enjoyed it.

Previous job roles: Nursery, Student Ambassador (open days and school events), Bank Staff Radiographic Care Assistant, Assistant Practitioner during the pandemic (able to take X-Rays).

Life before UWE Bristol: I went straight from college into university. Although I’d always planned to have a gap year and travel, when it came to it I worried if I didn’t go straight to university I might never end up going! I also knew this qualification could take me all around the world, so it didn’t matter if I didn’t have a gap year straight away. In the summer before university, I worked in a fun park on the seafront at home and during term time I volunteered at the nursery based in my college, looking after all my teachers’ children. I built a good work ethic from these two very different, job roles and feel they’ve definitely helped me learn to communicate better with people of all ages and working within a team.

Why and how I chose Radiography: From the beginning of secondary school, I knew I wanted to be in healthcare and the only three jobs I knew existed in the NHS were a doctor (I believed I was not clever enough for this); a nurse (I misconceived this as a horrible job and have since realised it’s far from it); and a physio (I perceived it to have a competitive nature). So, I was stuck knowing I wanted to help people but not wanting or feeling capable of doing it. My family is hugely dominated by doctors, so I asked them what other roles were available in the hospitals and my interest in radiography began. I did work experience in a range of different hospitals and departments and really enjoyed it all, but the love for the job came when I started university and began learning more in-depth about radiography as a whole. Many people ask if the work is hard and although I’d say yes, it never feels like work because I love the profession and am motivated to learn and become the best I can be for all of my patients. So even if you hate studying a subject at A Level now (which I definitely did!) it’s so different when your goal is working in a profession you love, not just getting a certificate.

Future plans and aspirations: I will be starting a permanent job as a Band 5 Radiographer at Southmead Hospital in August, where I did my second year placement (radiography students do a 14 week block in 1 hospital each year). Southmead is a major trauma hospital so there are lots of serious injuries and interesting cases so I thought I could learn the most starting my career here. In the future, I’d like to work in CT which is a fast-paced environment with a wide variety of different patients. I think I will always enjoy being a Radiographer. I’m so glad I’ve found a job I love doing, that isn’t repetitive and every day is different.

Radiography through my eyes:

Radiography is taking images of internal structures to help in each patient’s diagnosis. In order for the majority of conditions, illnesses or broken bones to be diagnosed, some form of medical imaging is required. A radiographer is the person that will take those images. This may be through x-rays, ultrasound, CT, MRI or other more unknown modalities like fluoroscopy or nuclear medicine. Radiographers mainly work in the radiography department, but some patients are too ill to come to the department, so a portable machine is taken to them on the ward or in resus to make sure they have the images they need. Radiographers are also needed in theatre (surgery) for pretty much all broken bones, taking blood clots out from a stroke patient, putting stents in for patients having a heart attack and for removing stones from the kidneys (these are not all as gory as you might think!!)

Myths & Misunderstandings:

  1. What’s the difference between a radiographer and radiotherapist? These are two completely different job roles and would not be able to do each other’s roles unless they retrained. A diagnostic radiographer in short takes x-rays to view internal structures, whereas a radiotherapist treats cancer.
  2. Isn’t radiography just pushing a button in the dark all day, taking X-rays of broken bones?

Whilst this is definitely part of the job, radiographers also go all around the hospital wherever they are needed, and a lot of pictures are taken of chests to see the lungs, or the abdomen to see the bowel or kidneys. It’s not all bone related but a high percentage is! It is also about being around a variety of different people and gaining people’s trust in the first few moments of meeting them; trying to maintain a conversation and keep someone at ease knowing they are in good care!

Example of typical (UWE) entry requirements: GCSE Grade C/4 or above in English Language/Literature and Mathematics. 120 Tariff points. A Level Grade C in a Science subject e.g. Biology, Human Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics, Psychology; other Science subjects will be considered on an individual basis. BTEC 6 units in a Science subject. Access: 15 Level 3 credits at Merit in Science Subject. Baccalaureate IB: Min. Grade 5 in Higher Level Science subject.

Student Radiographer, Hannah, shares her journey, myth-busting her profession as part of the virtual event series, How to Become a Healthcare Hero, delivered by Future Quest and two student healthcare leaders selected by the Council of Deans at the University of the West of England, Bristol. This was designed to untangle common stereotypes and misconceptions; to represent the variety of career journeys experienced; and to enable more informed career choices by giving a voice to more hidden healthcare opportunities professions.

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