"The nature of placement means that you are seeing all that you learn about in practice and it provides a great opportunity to get stuck in."
How did you develop an interest in Radiography?
Healthcare and medicine have always been of interest to me. When looking to embark upon further study at the end of my A-levels, I wanted to do something which would be both challenging and worthwhile. I wanted to help people but to be in a field which evolves constantly and where there is opportunity for continuous learning and development. I researched the course and degree thoroughly and decided that the balance between academic and clinical would work well for me and I would benefit from the blend of practice and theory.
Radiotherapy interested me because it isn’t something that many people are aware of unless they have experienced it themselves. It involves a lot of patient time and care which was attractive to me as I love to immerse myself with lots of people, but it also involves a great deal of knowledge of the techniques and anatomy and all of the many aspects which form the subject.
Why did you decide to apply to study at City, University of London?
The location of City means that you’re right in the heart of London; there’s easy access to so many places and it enables us to have links with the London hospitals. The London teaching hospitals are some of the best and to be able to train there and experience working in a very busy department is both challenging and fulfilling. The reputation of the University was a factor for me and it is justified, as I have enjoyed my time here since the first day.
What has been the highlight of your time at City?
I have most enjoyed going on clinical placement; we spent most of year 1 in academic lessons with a 6 week clinical block, but it gives us the opportunity to see all the knowledge we have learnt in practice and there’s nothing like getting stuck in. There is only a small number of us on the course which also means we have the opportunity to get to know each other very well and our lecturers too.
It’s great to be able to share your experiences on placement with all of the other students at Uni when we get back together after long clinical blocks and to learn from each other, as every hospital does things differently. The modules I have enjoyed most have definitely been the clinical based ones, as I love to be working alongside the radiographers; learning from them, being amongst the patients and experiencing the hospital environment.
How have you benefited from the teaching and facilities on your course?
We are lucky to have a VERT room at university which is a virtual linear accelerator with a real pendant to control the machine. We are able to become familiar with the controls before we go on placement and we are able to practice on virtual patients where we can make attempts at aligning their tattoos exactly how it would be done clinically. The software enables us to see inside the patient to their anatomy and you can see how the treatment plans look on a real patient. The lecturers are all brilliant and have so much experience between them- this helps us with our learning and it is very interesting to see how the field has changed over time even since the lecturers have been working.
What kind of things are you involved in outside your course?
The course is very full on so we don’t have too much time outside of uni. I like to see my friends and socialise with my family. The University has a Radiography Society which organises events throughout the year which are really fun to attend.
Could you tell us about your placements?
I have been based at UCLH for all of my time on placement so far. It’s a very busy department with a large number of staff and we also have the opportunity to spend time within the private section of the department. The nature of placement means that you are seeing all that you learn about in practice and it provides a great opportunity to get stuck in and really apply your learning in a practical way.
The nature of the course means that there is only so much that can be learned theoretically and experiencing placement means you see the department in action and what the staff do on a daily basis. The department is very student orientated - we have specific student coordinators and the staff put on lectures for us every week. These take aspects of our clinical practice and go over them in more depth. This is in addition to the day to day help and support they provide whilst we are learning. The staff are always willing for us to get hands on and are very thorough in their teaching to make sure we know the underpinning theory.
During our placement we have ‘named radiographers’ who are responsible for us during the time we are on a specific linear accelerator (LINAC). This member of staff will discuss our objectives with us at the beginning of placement and then meet with us midway to check on our progress. We then have an evaluation at the end where they comment on our progress and assess us against criteria encompassing what is expected of a qualified radiographer. Having a named radiographer provides us with the opportunity to continually develop and learn and also to assess our progress against the criteria for a newly qualified Radiographer (which we all aim for). We often have the opportunity to go to CPD sessions within the department - these address certain happenings in and out of the department and will address and new in-department protocols or new developments within radiotherapy which is such a rapidly changing field.
We are also visited weekly by our link lecturer, who we meet with to ensure we are progressing well on placement and to address any concerns that we may have and to debrief our week with them. A typical day as a second year involves being proactive in collecting patients from the waiting room, organising the list of patients due to have their treatment to make sure that the day runs smoothly, as some patients have pre-treatment preparation to complete which extends their time in department. We are able to act as a second radiographer and help in setting the patient up and aligning their permanent marks with lasers so they are in the same position as their CT scan - constantly communicating with the patient whilst doing this. Whilst we are able to get involved we are always observed by a radiographer who is monitoring what we do and will interject if there is something we need to do or if we require assistance. Outside the treatment room we are able to participate in image matching which checks the patient is in the right position to have their treatment. At a large hospital such as UCLH we have the opportunity to see patients with a variety of cancers and therefore we are made aware of many treatment techniques and the set up for these patients. We also have the opportunity to experience other forms of radiotherapy such as brachytherapy which gives us a more broad knowledge of the patient pathway. Overall for me, being on placement is the best part of the course.
What are you most looking forward to during the rest of your time at City?
I am looking forward to being a third year when you are able to take more responsibility for your learning both inside and outside of the university. We have a review article to do in which we take older research articles and review and update them. On placement as a third year you are able to take more responsibility and act as a lead radiographer (under supervision) and to lead patient set ups and take more responsibility for their care.
How will your placements help you with your chosen career?
We are primed from our first day on placements to act as radiographers and are held to the same standards that they are. We have three years’ worth of experience before we have to apply for jobs and it means we are already used to the running of the departments and how to set up patients. We are also given interview help and advice at placement to help us with getting jobs.
What would be your top tip for applicants for this course?
Don’t hold back and just go for it! It’s the most amazing experience being part of someone’s radiotherapy treatment as you have to support them at a very difficult time in their life and its all in your hands to make sure that they have the best experience possible. It combines a lot of knowledge of anatomy and oncology with the physics and techniques and you have to be very on your game all the time, which is good. The whole course you are certainly kept on your toes. Also, do not worry about anything- you will learn all you need to learn on the course, the lecturers give you all the support you need and the staff on placement are so helpful and welcoming.
What do you plan to do after you graduate?
I want to get a job within the field as a therapeutic radiographer, it is what we train the three years to do and I just want to be able to do this as my job and progress in the career. I can’t wait to get started as it is the best feeling when you find something that you love doing, which is both mentally and physically stimulating and rewarding and it’s such an amazing job to be able to do.