This time last year I was working as a Radiation Protection Adviser in the Nuclear Decommissioning Industry. I had been looking to pursue a career in Medical Physics for over a year after speaking to a medical physicist presenting at a conference I attended. I wanted to work in a role where I was helping other people whilst using my physics background, and I also wanted to be challenged more technically and to work in a faster paced environment.
So, I applied for a role within the Clinical and Radiation Physics department at PHNT and was lucky enough to get the job!
Having no previous experience in Medical Physics Quality Assurance programmes I was initially trained to perform routine and non-routine QA tests on X-Ray equipment within the Trust, which included our planar, mobile, fluoroscopy, CT, mammography and dental X-Ray systems. The Trust has approximately 100 X-ray units that require routine QA testing annually (sometimes biannually).
The department also has external contracts with the Peninsular Dental School, private dentists and even the British Antarctic Survey Unit. It can take several hours to perform routine QA tests on one X-ray system, and up to a week or more to accept and commission a larger piece of equipment like a CT scanner or Cardiac Catheter lab.
Owing to my radiation protection background, I was given the task of reviewing some of the hospital’s radiation risk assessments as part of a Trust wide campaign. The biggest (and nicest) surprise for me was the standard of the Radiation Protection infrastructure within the Trust – both administratively and operationally. In some respects the types of radiological hazards that hospitals have, are more challenging to manage than those in the nuclear industry (with far less money).
We are often required to work closely with Radiologists, Radiographers and Engineers to optimise exposure to ionising radiation, image quality and equipment performance. The wider team provides radiation protection services across the Trust and hosts investigations involving over-exposures of patients and staff. Members of the team perform training, compliance audits and act as specialist advisers surrounding the interpretation and compliance with ionising radiation legislation.
The Nuclear Medicine physicists also work within the Clinical and Radiation Physics team. In Nuclear Medicine, physicists give scientific advice on using radioactive materials for diagnosing a wide range of conditions. They administer radioactive drugs to treat patients suffering from thyroid cancer, and advise them on how to minimise the radiation dose to their families, since they’re radioactive when they go home! They also get involved with new equipment, such as making sure the new PET/CT scanner is fit for use.
Why I love my job
My favourite aspect of my role is the variety of my day-to-day duties; no two days are the same. In the morning, I could be performing QA testing at one of our Peripheral X-ray sites; in the afternoon I could be completing skin dose calculations for our patients or writing a radiation risk assessment for staff working in our Controlled Areas.
From the start of my career in Healthcare Science I had the goal of attaining Clinical Scientist status. When I initially joined the Trust there was no formal commitment to Clinical Scientist Training, however I knew Medical Physics was the career for me so I was happy for a foot in the door.
Almost nine-months on, the Trust has offered me an in-service post for the Scientist Training Programme – a nationwide three-year training programme that includes a part time master’s degree and work-based learning to attain registration as a Clinical Scientist (Medical Physics). This means, of course, I am really excited to be starting in September 2017.
Member of the Clinical & Radiation Physics Team, Directorate of Healthcare Science and Technology
Emily is writing as part of the #WeCare2 campaign that will be running across our Trust communications. Look out for more from Radiation Physics, and their AHP and HCS colleagues, on our social media pages, Trust screensavers, Daily Email, Vital Signs and much more.