There are two types of radiography degree, and it is important to know which one you want to do before you apply. It makes you seem far more dedicated and committed. Visit www.radiographycareers.co.uk for lots of nice info!
Diagnostic Radiography - This is what most people think of when you say "Radiography"; it is Medical Imaging. Diagnostic Radiographers perform X Rays (A&E, General), CT Scans, MRI Scans, Nuclear Medicine, Ultrasound etc. Diagnostic Radiographers also part-take in operations, providing images to surgeons. You can specialise in branches later on.
Therapeutic Radiography / Radiotherapy - This is the treatment of cancer cells using radiation, and uses big machines called linear accelerators to do it. You also use CT Scanners to locate the tumours, and there is an element of planning treatment (ie. the beams toward the tumour, dosages) as well.
Key Differences - It's important to keep the differences in mind, especially at interview as you can really shine if you make it clear you know what to expect.
1. Patient contact. Diagnostics practitioners will rarely see the same patient more than once. Think about it. You get scanned in A&E and then go off to get treatment, there's probably not going to be a need to get scanned again. Radiotherapists will see the same people throughout the course of their treatment, as regular appointments are made, so radiotherapists need to build up more of a relationship with their patients. Building a rapport and developing trust with your patient is paramount for any profession irrespective of the length of time you spend with them.
2. Both are involving professions. It is not wise to say you'd rather do diagnostics because you think dealing with cancer patients might be upsetting - how would you deal, therefore, with bloody mess in Casualty? Or using the portable machines on very sick patients? Diagnostic radiographers come into contact with plenty of people who are terminally ill and also imaging of people who are towards the end of their life.
3. Diagnostics will involve shift work. People don't just injure themselves in the daytime. This means you might work unsociable hours - I know a hospital where the radiographers have 17-hour overnight shifts - (and get the money associated with ;)) Therapy is scheduled around peoples' lives, so the appointments need to be in the daytime.
4. Of course, the nature of the professions themselves. Do you want to be taking X Rays or treating cancers?
5. Both involve a lot of anatomy. Diagnostic practitioners have to know their 'craft' to ensure they get the right pictures; some fractures for instance might mean that there should be another fracture present, so a diagnostic radiographer would need to know that. Therapy radiographers need to know all about the other tissues around tumours to ensure that treatment is directed in the right place without damaging anything else.
Entry Requirements - General
- Most of the offers range from 300-180 points depending, wanting an average of BBC-DDD in three A Levels. Some unis will accept 2 full A Levels and then the rest of the points from AS. It's pretty flexible.
- Most universities may require a science-based A-level or AS before entry, so having one would be useful.
- Most universities will interview their applicants prior to giving an offer.
- Not only do applicants have to meet their grade requirements, but you will be expected to pass an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check and a health screen. Failure to complete/pass these health screens MAY result in you NOT being able to take up your place.
- Radiography does tend to feature in Extra and Clearing, though it's more likely at some universities than others!
- If you don't meet your grade requirements on results day DON'T PANIC! Have the telephone numbers of your first and insurance choice uni available. Call them up and see if you've been accepted anyway. most uni's will accept a slip of 1 grade or so, but this is dependent on how well everyone else in the application cycle does. Also have a copy of the clearing list available just in case some places are available at other uni's.
- In a lot of cases the person you are is more important than your grades; you will really need to sell yourself at interview and why radiography is the career for you.
- GET WORK EXPERIENCE - Pretty much all the unis will ask for you to experience what it is you want to have a career in. It doesn't have to be a lot, though, even just one day will be enough, some universities such as Exeter require a week.
- For diagnostic radiography, it is best to ring and email your local hospitals asking for work experience for shadowing. Other hospitals, such as Peterborough General, require that you submit an application form at least two months prior to the intended start date, therefore don't leave it to the last minute. Try and sort it out after the January exams (AS year) before applying. Don't be afraid to call, it is easier than you think.
- For therapy, it can be harder. Even contact any local unis to see if they could help you out, but first try the hospitals themselves.
- In general, hospitals are very open and welcoming as they want to encourage people into the profession.
Note for under 18s: Due to the health and safety of working in an environment where exposure to radiation can be dangerous, it maybe more difficult to obtain work experience. Also what you can see and do will be affected by this.
Work experience will mostly consist of shadowing and observing. It's not scary at all, and if radiography is the career for you you will no doubt find it to be an interesting and rewarding experience.
Remember to be confidant on Work Experience, asking lots of questions and show a genuine interest. IF your Mentor trusts you, they may let you do more than the standard "observe and follow" routine. For example, I assisted in an Enema Clinic, passing equipment to the doctor and just generally helping out. :). Work experience is better the more effort you put in! :)
BSc in Diagnostic Radiography: Universities
All information is correct for 2008 entry as of 18th April 2008.
Diagnostics Course Code is B821
- Birmingham City University (Places in Extra 2008)
- University of Bradford (Places in Extra 2008)
- The University of the West of England, Bristol (Places in Extra 2008)
- Canterbury Christ Church University
- Cardiff University
- City University (Places in Extra 2008)
- University of Cumbria (Places in Extra 2008)
- University of Derby (Places in Extra 2008)
- University of Exeter (Places in Extra 2008)
- Glasgow Caledonian University (Places in Extra 2008)
- University of Hertfordshire (Places in Extra 2008)
- University of Leeds
- University of Liverpool
- London South Bank University (Places in Extra 2008)
- University of Portsmouth (Places in Extra 2008)
- Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh
- The Robert Gordon University (Places in Extra 2008)
- The University of Salford
- Sheffield Hallam University (Places in Extra 2008)
- St George's, University of London (joint faculty with Kingston University) (Places in Extra 2008)
- University Campus Suffolk (Places in Extra 2008)
- University of Teesside
- University of Ulster (competive BBB req)
BSc in Therapeutic Radiography- Entry requirements/Offers
All information is correct for 2008 entry as of 18th April 2008.
Bear in mind that some courses have slightly different names - "Radiotherapy & Oncology" for example is still the same degree!
- Therapy Course Code = B822
Funding and Finances
- Currently tuition fees are £3,290 (2010 entry) per year and most universities have all their places funded by the NHS, which means that they will pay your fees and you don't have to get a tuition fee loan.
- Student Loan - apply through your LEA for this. The amount you are entitled to depends on the location of uni, the amount your parents earn and how whether you will be living at home or in halls. This is repayable after you start earning 15,000. See www.studentfinancedirect.co.uk for more details! It is a reduced rate loan, as you are also eligible for the NHS Bursary. For 2008 entry, the loan is £2200 or so.
- NHS Bursary - for this you apply directly to the NHS Students Grants Unit (they should send you a form!). Again, it is means tested and depends on the same factors as your student loan. BUT, you do not have to pay it back. I strongly suggest you take the bursary even if you are entitled to a measly sum of money. This is because certain costs i.e. placement, uniform, travel & accommodation for placements can be claimed back once you've paid for them, but only if you are receipt of a bursary. So even if you're only entitled to 5p, then you should take it otherwise you'll be poorer in the long run! See www.nhsstudentgrants.co.uk for more details!
The Student Loan deadline is earlier than that for most conventional courses. The NHS should send information around June regarding funding.
Universities vary, first of all. But on the whole, expect about 50% of your time to be spent on academic blocks, and 50% in clinical placement.
How do they vary? This is a good place to pick questions from to ask yourself at interview, so long as you haven't already been informed of course:
- How long are the clinical blocks?
- Is there a clinical placement in the first year?
- Will you be at one hospital most of the time?
- Will you be rotated to several hospitals?
- What is the academic/clinical split like?
- Will you be on placement grouped with other students?
Some unis will have you spend an entire year on placement, whilst others dot placements out throughout the whole course. Some will give you a full Summer holiday (thus making the rest of the time quite intensive), others have an extended academic year (this is more the norm).
It takes a lot of thought to find the course that best suits you. Remember, if you are eligible for the NHS Bursary then you will be able to reclaim travel or extra accommodation costs (accommodation if your placement is really far away!), so don't worry too much about that.
Life as a Radiography Student
Well, I've only applied so far. I'll update when I actually start! I plan to write a blog so will keep that linked here, too. :)
You will likely start in September/October. To get a head start, you should start a Hepatitis B vaccination course as early as possible, as it takes six months. So starting in January/February the year before, when you're applying, is a good idea!
How to Cope on Radiography Placements
Thankyou to Cherry Black
- Guard your markers with your life! It's a horrible feeling when you go to put a left marker on the cassette, and you've only got a right one.
- Be assertive with your positioning. If you move the patient's arm like it's made of unicorn's tears, they're less likely to cooperate, whereas if you assertively put it where you need it (you don't have to be aggressive, or hurt them, just confident) they're more likely to keep it in that exact position, because you mean business!
- If you're in a department where you get left by yourself a lot, don't take it personally. The radiographer might be there the whole time you're positioning, but as soon as you go to take the image, they've disappeared off the face of the earth. Worse still, that skyline knee was perfect when you set it up, but by the time you've found someone to check it, the patient has flopped their leg down and the radiographer now thinks you have no idea how to image knees. Don't worry! It happens, especially in busy departments. Just bite your tongue and move on.
- Treat everyone (not just qualified radiographers, but fellow students, APs, and other staff) as potential future colleagues, because they are! It doesn't matter if your placement is in Edinburgh, and you're hoping to work in Auckland, radiography is a relatively close knit community, and if you piss people off, word will get around, and by Sod's Law, that person will end up being your supervisor. Equally, try to make a good impression- we were told just after our first placement that opinions will have already been made as to whether we are considered good candidates for employment, and we've got three years to go yet!
- Show an interest! Even if you're terrified and want the ground to swallow you up, go get involved. Even if you're just handing cassettes or accessories to the radiographer, get in the room and see what's going on. You're more likely to be respected that way.
- If you see things in practise that you either don't agree with or things that clash with what you've been taught, don't say "we've been taught not to do that". If you feel you must question it at the time, word it differently "ooh that's an interesting method, I've not seen that done that way before..." and listen to their reasoning. Sometimes it's a bad habit, sometimes it's due to local rules. Otherwise, just make a mental note of it and ask your tutors when you see them. It's less likely to cause conflict this way- a long-qualified radiographer isn't going to take it very well when a first year student tells them they are wrong.
- However, if you are put in a situation which could adversely affect you, for example in fluoroscopy without appropriate protection, don't just play along! If there aren't enough lead aprons for you to have one, excuse yourself and go find one! Don't miss out on seeing really interesting procedures just because someone's nicked an apron. Equally, if there are no thyroid shields, ask where you might find another! You might get treated like a worry-wart, but this is YOUR SAFETY at stake, and hopefully you're going to be working with radiation for many many years to come, so it's best to look after yourself. It's in everyone's interests that you're safe: you don't want cancer, and the NHS really don't want you to get cancer- it'll be a waste of a radiography degree, and they'll have to treat you!
- Last point (for now)- if you're in a department with quite a few students on placement, don't herd together! It's really intimidating for the patients and it's annoying for the staff. If you're assigned to be somewhere, and there's nothing happening, don't sprint back to be with your mates, it looks really bad and you could miss something interesting.
That stuff all sounds really negative, but it's not meant to be! Just enjoy your placements and make the most of your time in practise. It'll be over before you know it.
Life as a Radiotherapy Student
How to Cope on Radiotherapy Placements
Thankyou to little_miss_sunshine24
- On the first placements the staff will just be looking for you to get used to what happens in the department, what equipment is used and chat to patients, do any ID procedure and bring them through into the room, communicate well with other members of staff etc
- They will probably start you off participating in treatment set ups by moving the gantry, learning the controls for the bed without a patient in the room, getting the room ready for the next patient by getting the correct equipment ready and so on. They will go through the local rules on radiation protection and you may also have an induction package to complete from your uni, this will help you settle into the department.
- If you don't understand anything-ask a member of staff! You will have a mentor for your placement so ask them if you are unsure. They will be supervising you all the time when you begin to set patients up and they wont let you do anything wrong so don't panic about that! Towards the end of the placement staff will probably let you get involved more in the treatment set up by moving the patient etc, don't panic about this you will be fine :)
- You will be on your feet for most of the day going in and out of the treatment room - wear comfy shoes!
- Make sure you have a pen and a notebook to go in your tunic pocket - I feel lost without my notebook now! Also try to get hold of some skin marker pens, we have them provided in department but I also have a collection of ohp pens too. Bring a small ruler as these are often needed.
- Remember some terms that will be used in department - these will help you become familiar with treatment set ups:
Patient supine - the patient lies on their back Patient prone - the patient lies on their front
Look up meanings for anterior, posterior, inferior, superior, sagittal etc as you will need these terms daily!
In some countries you must be certified or become a registered radiographer to get hired and work.
After your radiography education you will take an exam testing you on core competencies and knowledge learned through out your years in radiography.
Not sure about the rest, but for students in the USA you can find more information at www.ARRT.org
Also I found this link helpful preparing for it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=daRTF4j2aJ0
Graduate Destinations and Career Prospects
One of the main appeals of becoming a radiographer is that it is basically a passport to the entire world. It is a qualification you can take anywhere!
However, a Radiography degree will not qualify you to work in the USA or Canada. Further examinations are required and the cost of these can amount to over £3000.
Graduates will follow their chosen Diagnostic/Theraputic career path and after two years work experience there is an opportunity to further progress by taking one of a number of Postgraduate courses in areas such as medical ultrasound and image reporting.