A Day in the Life of a Radiographer


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 Continue reading