The time had come to arrange a study week and actually find out what the radiologists get up to in their secret hidey-holes of the hospital…
Working as a locum enabled me to arrange a study week fairly easily and I approached a friendly radiologist in the department, expressed my interest in a career in radiology and asked who the best person to contact for help was. A few emails later and the personalised timetable of the study week was sitting nicely in my inbox. Now all I had to do was put my scrubs away and dig out some normal clothes for the week.
At first I was surprised how many radiologists (ironic considering there is a national shortage) they hide away in the hospital, we have about twenty. I was used to seeing the same four names on the reports and I was naïve to the scope of work they routinely complete from invasive procedures like IVC filters and arthrograms through to presenting the thoracic MDT after completing a CT coronary angiography list in the morning.
I was mainly shadowing in clinics attached to a different consultant in each session. I tried to arrange a combination of imaging clinics and I was able to watch MRI, CT, IR, USS, X-ray, hot reporting of scans, arthrograms and do other bits like attend the MDT and eat doughnuts. If there is a particular area that you know more about it is very rewarding to be able to put your knowledge into place and imagine yourself writing that report.
One of my main aims was to find out more about the ST1 application process for the speciality. I was fortunate to meet a radiology registrar who was very happy to give me advice from her own experience such as audit topics and skills to enhance. It is important for you to realise what is missing from your portfolio and try to fill in the gaps. Ask some nice radiologists to help you.
Also speaking to trainees about practical aspects such as where to live and how their life has panned out over the last few years may be a bit nosy, but these are important questions that may help you make a life changing decision. Some of the radiology training is unbanded and there are multiple costly compulsory exams at a set time which involve a huge amount of revision. Your wedding may have to wait or you may risk retakes and delays in training.
For me (and probably others!) a large part of my future career is job satisfaction. Talking to as many consultants as possible about their careers and aspects of the job they enjoy was particularly rewarding. They are aware of the pressures of recruitment and as an ever evolving speciality they are being threatened by other specialities such as cardiology; but this doesn’t stop them from being happy with their career choice. I was surprised how much of a surgical or medical background most of the consultants had before completing radiology. This had clearly helped them with their knowledge and having taken time out of training myself I will hopefully have gained more experience than I would otherwise if applying straight from FY2. This is up for debate though – many trainees come directly from foundation training (FY2) and it doesn’t seem to be an issue not having MRCP anymore. If you want another view, read the when to apply to radiology blog post.
There is clearly a vast amount to learn in radiology, something that hits you every time you’re asked an anatomy question about a body part you haven’t thought about much since medical school. Spotting that consolidation on chest X-ray is easy, but did you also spot that mass in the right lung. Did you succumb to the satisfaction of search? The precision of ultrasound guided local anaesthetic literally a few millii meters next to the jugular vein makes you hold your breath as well and praying the patient doesn’t sneeze!
There are many skills that a radiologist needs and the study week helped me understand whether I had those skills and if I didn’t, whether I actually wanted them. Ultimately this would be your job; if you’re not fantasising about holding that needle or dictaphone then you need another study week!
This post was written by Dr Emily King, an ED SHO in Bournemouth (UK) at the time of publishing.