It’s that time of year again. Personal statements have been written. UCAS applications have been sent and the interviewing process has begun to recruit the next generation of diagnostic radiographers. It’s no secret that candidates will be asked why they are considering a degree in radiography. It will be no surprise to hear that for most it is the mix of technical skill and patient care that attracts them to the profession- I gave that very answer seventeen year ago. While my answer hasn’t changed during this time, my appreciation of the patient care aspect of our role has.
In 2002, less than a year qualified, my Mum passed away from a short illness. During this time Mum had became a hospital regular and came across a number of different departments and professionals. It was her account of a visit to the imaging department which made me further consider our role in the patient journey. Due to a delayed scan, and after drinking the copious amount of contrast medium needed for the CT scan, she was desperate for the toilet. She asked the radiographer if she could assist her. The “rather flustered” radiographer said there was no need as they would be with her shortly. However this wasn’t the case. Too weak to take herself to the toilet she wet herself and remained that way until she returned to the ward after her scan. To this day I remember her recount how embarrassed and powerless she felt.
Ours is an interesting patient interaction. In a very short space of time you need to gain the patient’s trust to take the images required, often when they are in pain or scared of the results. Unlike other healthcare professionals you may never see your service user again. As highlighted above we often do this in high-demanding environments and it is a skill we refine throughout our pre-registration and post-registration training.
In 2007 I had the opportunity to explore the patient-radiographer interaction in more detail while studying for my medical imaging masters. I was fortunate to be taught by Dr. Lisa Booth, an expert in this field. In a postgraduate programme which was inevitably technology driven it was refreshing to have a module solely dedicated to the patient care aspect of our role. An over-riding theme of Dr. Booth’s teaching (which uses a transactional communication approach) was how to make the most of the patient interaction- no matter how brief.
More recently I have started to follow the #hellomynameis campaign championed by Dr Kate Granger. I use a “You-Tube” clip of Dr. Granger speaking at the NHS Confederation annual conference and exhibition 2014 to explore with my year 3 students the diagnostic imaging journey through the service user’s eyes.
Although her experiences are not necessarily of the imaging department, there are many strands that can be woven into our practice. Who knew the simple words of “Hello My Name Is ….”, could be so powerful?
So what would I tell my 17 year old self on that faithful day? (Other than breath, relax, smile?). A career in radiography will be everything you think it will be- both technical and patient focused. It will be challenging but also rewarding. But most importantly, no matter where your career takes you, your patient care/ communication will be at the heart of everything you do.