A Day in the Life of a Radiographer

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By Ben Stuttard (Band 5, Diagnostic Radiographer)

I work shifts and there is no regular start time to my day, but typically I’ll be working something like an 8.30am-5pm “flat day” or an 8am-8pm “long day.” As I live a 45-60 minute drive away from work, this can mean the alarm going off at 5.45am when on a long day.

For an 8am start, we like to get in for about 7.45am to relieve the night staff who have been on from 8pm the evening before. The shift begins in the X-ray department in Accident & Emergency (A&E). Once the night shift has handed over any issues (any outstanding X-ray requests, any equipment issues and such like), then it’s down to cleaning! This is usually all over and done by 8.30am, by which time it’s usually time to move to another department for the majority of the day.

Most likely this will be Inpatients. It is here that any patients staying in the hospital who require an X-ray will come for their examination. It is from here that portable X-rays are also coordinated. If a patient is too ill to come down to the department, then we will go up to them on the ward with one of our portable X-ray machines.

Another part of the work I do is taking X-rays whilst patients are in the operating theatre. This work is also coordinated from the Inpatient department, where the day begins at 8.30am with cleaning the X-ray room and getting it ready for the day’s list. I or one of my colleagues will then contact each of the several theatres to ask if they have any cases on their list that require X-ray to be present. Once we have established which theatres need us and at what time of the day, then the day really begins!

If I am required to go to theatre, then it’s a case of grabbing a pair of theatre clogs and a key for one of the mobile X-ray machines and heading off. It’s very likely that I’ll end up in the A&E Trauma theatre. Sometimes this will involve taking one of the Student Radiographers we have in the department up to theatre with me to show them what we do. The list usually comprises patients who have injured themselves the day before, or maybe during the night.

On arrival in the theatre suite I’ll go to get changed into theatre scrubs and then take the X-ray equipment into theatre. Once I have checked what the first case is I can then start setting up the equipment in the correct position before the patient is brought into theatre. Sometimes we are needed just for one or two cases; other times a radiographer is required in theatre all day. Once I’m no longer required, then I need to clean the equipment and take it out of theatre, send the images taken in theatre to the hospital network (so that the surgeons can review them at a later date), get changed out of scrubs and head back down to the department.

Being on a long day invariably means that I’ll go on first lunch at about midday. After lunch it’s possible that I’ll be required to go back up to theatre, or if not then I’ll stay down in the department and X-ray inpatients either in the department or on the wards with the mobile equipment.

After an early break for tea it will be down to myself and a colleague, also on an 8-8 shift, to relieve the day staff in the A&E X-ray department. If there are still theatre cases in progress, then this may mean heading back up to theatre. It’s not uncommon on an 8-8 shift to end up in theatre at least two or three times during the day. If theatres are finished then I will stay down in A&E from where we will continue to X-ray those inpatients who were unable to come down before 5pm, as well as the patients coming through the door in A&E. The time between 5-8pm is more often than not the busiest period of the day, which at least means it usually goes quickly!

As we relieve the night staff before 8am in the morning, so usually the night staff come in a bit early to relieve us. Before we can go however, as the night shift handed over to us in the morning, we need to make sure that we hand over any existing issues from the day to the night staff. Once this is done, then it’s time for the drive home, a shower, usually some TV to unwind and then bed before getting up to do the same again the following day, as when we do 12 hour shifts, we tend to do either three or four of them in a row which doesn’t leave much time for a social life! The benefits, however, are three or four days off duty that usually follow a period of long days, or nights come to that.

I’ve been qualified for two and a half years now, and I still learn something new every day. Every patient is different. Every day is different.

© Ben Stuttard 2015

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10 thoughts on “A Day in the Life of a Radiographer

  1. dont you have a choice like say you cant do a night shift cant you change it to a morning shift the following day or a late shift etc?

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  2. Pingback: World Radiography Day 2015 | radiographerben

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  4. This is a really helpful article! – do you get holidays for Christmas, Easter etc.? If so, how many days/weeks off do you usually get?
    If you don’t mind answering these, what GCSE’s did you do…A levels…? – Just to help me think about my journey; I’m still a student.
    Thank you

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    • Hello ☺

      Thanks! Glad you liked the blog 👍 As for the holidays, when you work shifts you generally end up working over public holidays such as Christmas and Easter, but not always ☺

      As for what GCSEs I did – that was a long time ago! I think I did Geography, Physics, Chemistry, Maths, English, French amongst others! For A-Levels, it was Chemistry, Geography and Politics! I came into radiography as a mature student, not straight from school. Have you checked out radiographycareers.co.uk? That would be a great place to start!

      Ben

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  5. Hi Ben
    Thanks for sharing your blog.
    I am really interested in radiography and hope to study it in a year or two. I am hoping to complete my BTEC level 3 in applied Science. And hopefully that will help me gain uni entry.
    What would you say is the most challenging aspect of the job clinically?
    Do you find working the machinery requires IT skills, Physics or some other part of your studies?
    Do you find yourself having to work with faulty equipment and or sorting out faulty equipment?
    Are the xrays set or do you change the ‘rays’ depending on what you’re xraying and whom?
    I’ve not had the opportunity to work in this environment but hope to volunteer one day.
    Sorry I have a lot of niggly questions, hopefully it wont be too much trouble.

    mel

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    • Hi Melanie! Ooh, lots of questions! Here goes (a) Its not clinically, but the most challenging aspect of the job is hours you have to work and the shift patterns! (b) IT skills are certainly handy when operating the different types of equipment, but not massively so and the physics you just need to have the basic understanding of x-rays that you’ll be taught as part of your training (c) There is always faulty equipment in a department and yes, you will have to work around that! (d) most x-ray rooms have preset exposure factors, but you will need to know how and why they need to be changed depending on your patient.

      Hopefully that answers your questions? 🙂

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  6. Thank you so much for answering those questions! I wish you all the best with all the good work your doing.. 😊 my uni application for radiography has been turned down to to my grades.. so plan b is ive now secured a place in college to study a btec in applied science.. and ive also been accepted for an access to radiography. Just need to decide which one is best. Thanks once a again…

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