University College London Hospital
Third year Radiography student, Shana describes her experiences on placement at University College London Hospital.
Studying a degree like
Radiography means that your course is a combination of learning based at the
University and placements, which are fantastic experience, but I am first to
admit that on my first day at my first placement, despite all the preparation
and advice we had been given, I was apprehensive! My first placement in Year
1 was at University College London Hospital (UCLH) I was a bit worried about
fitting in the department and if the staff would like me. What if I messed up
and made a mistake?
As I stepped into the control area for Linac (linear accelerator) B, I was greeted with a comforting sight – the same white tunic and black trousers like mine. Phew, I’m not alone. She could help me. The wave of relief that went through me when I saw the third year student on the same machine as me could not be more welcomed.
Now a final year student radiographer myself, the exhilarating ride that is 54 weeks of placement is coming to an end. I’ve been on 5 different Linacs and an Orthvoltage treatment unit, and in the planning department, including a CT simulator and mould room, as well as the brachytherapy department. Because UCLH provides holistic care to all patients, I also had a chance to work with the nurses and play specialists, who help children and adolescents going through radiotherapy.
Team work and good communication are two important skills I learnt about in class, but only gained experience whilst on placement. I never know what each new day at placement might bring – there may be new patients starting treatment, or a machine interlock error that may result in delays – but the constant that is the team I train with always works efficiently together to help reassure an anxious patient, or find ways to minimise delays.
Training at UCLH has built my confidence in communicating with patients and radiographers. I learnt how to give information to patients on their first day of treatment, and there was a role-play session in which I learnt how to answer questions patients may have. Eventually, I was comfortable with leading such chats that I could do them on my own, like a qualified radiographer! The staff also allow students to operate the machines under supervision, and I always felt a small rush of adrenaline just as I switch the beam on for treatment.
The best part about being a radiographer is the patients I see every day. When I had four consecutive weeks on a treatment machine, I usually treated the same patients, and through this continuity of care, I was able to build a good rapport with the patients. It is rewarding to see a patient complete a course of treatment and to know that you’ve helped him in his journey in fighting cancer.
Other placements that City offers include prominent radiotherapy departments in London and Essex, such as Royal Free Hospital, St Bartholomew’s Hospital and Southend Hospital to name a few. Students will get to rotate around the different radiotherapy departments, giving them adequate exposure to the work environment before qualifying. This is also a chance to see how other departments might treat the same cancer with different techniques – which definitely helps in exams and interviews!
Radiotherapy is a good balance of science and technology, and caring for others. Although initially I didn’t know what to expect in placement in Year 1, the staff at UCLH have nurtured me into a confident and knowledgeable student radiographer, and I can’t imagine myself in a different profession!