Guardians of the radiation


Who are those strange characters lurking behind lead glass and kept in their faraday cages?

Like many professions in the NHS, Radiography is not well known and people often don’t realise the breadth and depth to the job. The majority of patients (in, or out) that come into our hospital will need the care of a Radiographer, as over 1000 diagnostic imaging tests are performed daily in the Trust. This is the kind of numbers we are dealing with.

It’s very hard to simplify what Radiographers do when there are so many different specialties within the profession. At its core you could say that we are the last stop before a patient is exposed to radiation; call us ‘the guardians of radiation’. We need to check everything is correct and justified before pressing that button. But our roles don’t stop there, far from it. Over the years Radiographers have taken on more and more responsibility and what is expected of us has changed as well.

Many people think of Radiographers as button pushers or for me in CT according to my friends it’s “flashy flashy press press.” Don’t get me wrong; when that button flashes it brings me great joy pushing it but we all do so much more. We cannulate patients, make sure the exam is justified, check to make sure the entire area of interest is covered, a quick look to spot any obvious gross abnormalities and if we do spot something we then inform our fantastic Radiologists who can then take the appropriate next steps.

In Radiography you can choose many different specialties and they are all quite different, but we all start doing normal x-rays. While in that role we cover ED, dealing with traumas to broken toes, in theatre we provide live fluoroscopy during operations, outpatients X-rays, dental and portable x-rays on the wards.

From here we can progress into several other areas. Let me tell you about a few:

Nuclear Medicine – where they prepare and administer radioactive chemical compounds, known as radiopharmaceuticals and then perform many different scans. Mammography – where specialist Mammographers perform scans, biopsies and report the images.

Computed Tomography (CT)-  which I have spoken about in my previous post. Interventional Radiography – which again involves live images being acquired during interventional procedures.

Cath labs – Cardiac Radiographers help image during the majority of cardiac operations.


We can also move into reporting radiographers who form reports just like radiologists. They cover x-ray (where they can report on the appendicular skeleton), in CT (to report head scans) and MRI have both head and extremity reporting radiographers.


If you have had enough of radiation after a while, there’s the option to change to MRI or ultrasound. In ultrasound after one or two years of further study, you can become a Sonographer. This lovely bunch perform the majority of ultrasound scans from obstetric to Doppler, again forming their own reports like radiologists.


Finally, in MRI, Radiographers perform a variety of complicated scans from cardiac stress scans to head scans, while doing vital safety checks on each patient to make sure there are no contraindications.


As you can see, Radiography covers a wide variety of roles. So next time you see me pressing the flashing button remember we all do so much more and we are (like every job in the Trust) a vital cog in the big, hospital machine.


Matt is writing as part of the #WeCare2 campaign that will be running across our Trust communications. Look out for more from Imaging, and their AHP and HCS colleagues, on our social media pages, Trust screensavers, Daily Email, Vital Signs and much more.

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