A snapshot of the life of a radiology trainee…
Clinical Radiology is a specialty that involves utilising imaging modalities to help clinicians in the management of patients across all branches of medicine and surgery. From diagnosing anterior cerebral artery aneurysms on CT angiograms to identifying fractures of the zygoma following a traumatic injury during a game of hockey – radiology is one of the most revolutionising fields over the last twenty years.
Unfortunately, I had very limited insight into radiology as a career during medical school. However, as a junior doctor I was exposed to radiology daily which peaked my interest in the specialty. I organised a taster week to discover what a career in radiology was like and to identify the skills required from a competent radiologist. To gain a real sense of radiology, I observed several subspecialties including musculoskeletal, paediatric, interventional, neurology and general radiology.
Many healthcare professionals believe that radiologists sit in dark, dungeon-esque rooms, glaring at bright screens and reporting lists of radiographs in a monotonous fashion without any concern about a patient’s clinical situation. It is true that a typical day as a radiology trainee involves performing and interpreting routine imaging. However, radiologists do have the patient’s best interests in mind – they do stop and ask ‘Why?’ – ‘Why was the scan requested? What did the clinician want to rule out/in?’. Often, time is spent over the phone with the requesting doctor to obtain more information to choose the right investigation for the patient.
A common misconception is that radiologists do not have patient contact. That statement is false. In the week I spent in the department, the radiologists had plenty of patient contact; from performing barium swallows, injecting contrast dye into shoulder joints to ultrasound scanning and performing minimally invasive procedure guided by a chosen imaging modality. Apart from having the skills to perform and interpret the different radiographs, radiologists also need to be effective communicators.
One afternoon, I met a young girl, accompanied by her worried father, who complained of severe right iliac fossa pain. A paediatric radiologist engaged with the young girl and established a rapport with her very quickly, such that he was able to perform the ultrasound scan with good co-operation from the patient. Additionally, the radiologist answered all the paternal concerns and reassured them of his findings.
Furthermore, team leadership and management plays a key role in interventional radiology. In one morning session I saw one radiologist perform an ultrasound guided biopsy of a liver with a child suspected to have autoimmune hepatitis, perform a venoplasty in a warfarinised patient with a DVT and undertake a fluoroscopically guided nephrostomy tube insertion in a very complex patient with recurrent cervical cancer. Making sure the team in the operating room are aware of their allocated roles is paramount in performing the different procedures smoothly.
After speaking to several radiology trainees, I was enlightened to hear that the consultants are very supportive and hands-on to help them develop their knowledge and interpretation skills. There is regular formal teaching as well as impromptu sessions to help prepare them for forthcoming exams. Despite the stress of exams, all the trainees were very happy being in the radiology training programme.
This taster week helped solidify my decision to pursue a career in radiology. I would like to thank all the trainees and consultants who made this week very informative and enjoyable. This experience has definitely prepared me for the journey ahead in this evolving career pathway.
This post was written by Dr Senali Perera, an FY2 at the time of publishing. The taster week was at Nottingham University Hospitals.