Ben’s Journey as a student radiographer – Choosing a career as an AHP
20th May 2021
A little about me,…I’m currently a 1st year student diagnostic radiographer, studying at Birmingham City University. I have played the drum kit since I was 10 and was always torn between a career in music or a career in healthcare. I chose music and after graduating with a BA (hons) in music technology, I gained a scholarship to study a PhD in computer music composition. After this I completed an MSc in audiology, investigating how sound affects perception. As well as playing percussion and producing music, I’m also a keen runner and try to run as much as placement allows. I also enjoy the cinema, theatre and binging boxsets.
The most difficult part about being a student radiographer is, as it is in any healthcare setting, you are going to have bad days, so it’s important to make sure you are prepared for them. Bad days can be due to seeing a patient you have bonded with in pain, having equipment failure making everything difficult or simply because things just don’t seem to go right. It can be difficult not to carry a bad day into the next one. I try to remember that each patient’s individual experience is vital regardless of what day I have had. I might have done 20 x-ray projections but for the patient it’s their only one. Often when patients come to us, they are in the middle of their journey, unsure of what is causing their health issue and how serious it is. This is an extremely distressing and frightening time. My role is to take the best diagnostic images in the situation but also to give patients the best personalised care possible. When I put on my uniform at the start of a shift, I always have a smile to go with it.
You have several other academic degrees/qualifications, what led you to pursue radiography? As I mentioned previously, a career in healthcare was always something I had thought about. When I was a child, I wanted to be a vet and after a period of caring for my grandmother, that changed to nursing. I had little knowledge of the amazing variety of careers there are in healthcare, such as AHPs. During and after completing my MSc, I had an episode of major depression, anxiety and I struggled with addiction. I took some time out to recover. It was during this time that I questioned what I wanted to do in life and reconsidered a career in healthcare. I decided I wanted a career that made a difference and directly helped people. I had experienced x-ray departments before, so I looked up radiography. Having a background in music technology, the technological aspect of radiography clicked with me. I was, however, worried about the patient interaction element and the emotional aspect of the career. It has turned out that it’s the patients that really drive me and what I love the most about the job. The technology soon becomes old but the diversity of patients in our care and the bond you can form in such a short amount of time ensures that days never get boring.
The advice that I would give for anyone thinking of going down this path is that , it’s never too late for a career change! I have met many student radiographers that have had previous careers, from science teachers to accountants. Everyone is able to bring their own set of unique skills to the career and the radiography profession benefits from the vast range of experiences. There is no rush to get your career sorted at an early age and there’s certainly no point in staying in a job you hate. If you are passionate about science and technology, want to play a vital role in the people’s health, and most importantly, enthusiastic about providing the best care, radiography is for you.
What do you look forward to the most once you’re qualified? Being a student radiographer can often feel a bit like my brain is doing three things at once. I’m looking forward to having developed my radiography skills to the extent that they become natural. I’m excited about having the confidence and knowledge to act independently and autonomously.
My plans for the future regarding radiography changes all the time! Within radiography there are many different areas you can choose to specialise in, such as CT, MRI, ultrasound, nuclear medicine, interventional and reporting. This variety is another excellent aspect of the profession. The area I want to specialise in changes weekly and its early days for me. I am very interested in reporting though. This is where radiographers are trained in assessing and interpreting the images and deciding which is the most appropriate care pathway for the patient. Having the opportunity to work with some reporting radiographers at this stage of my career, has really opened my eyes to the level of knowledge, expertise and autonomy radiographers can have. It’s very inspiring!
I would like to add that, if you are thinking about a career in radiography, social media like Twitter and Instagram are useful tools. There is a welcoming and kind community of radiographers and student radiographers sharing their experiences on Twitter. They are great places to network and learn about the profession.
Thank you Ben for sharing your story and providing us with this really valuable insight! Keep an eye out for more of these showcases coming your way! Ben is also helping us to spread awareness of AHP careers!