What, why, how, where?
Undertaking a radiology audit shows that you are aware of clinical governance, which is an important part of the person specification, and that you have taken the time to complete a project in your chosen career area.
What is an audit?
Clinical Audit is a quality improvement process that seeks to improve patient care and outcomes by systematically reviewing current practice against defined criteria. After assessing current practice, if needed, changes are made and further monitoring is used to confirm improvement. Essentially, you assess what you do against defined standards then make a change and re-assess to show (hopefully) improvement.
Clinical audit is not just a data collection exercise. It involves measuring current patient care and outcomes against explicit audit criteria (also termed standards), but also:
- There is an expectation from the beginning that practice will be improved.
- Further clinical audit may be required to confirm that practice has improved.
Why undertake an audit?
Audit is an integral part of all clinical practice. Participation in audits show that you're motivated and dedicated; not only to radiology but to the activities expected of a conscientious and desirable radiology trainee. The GMC has said that it is the duty of a doctor to participate in regular medical audit.
An additional benefit is that you will look at a specific aspect of radiological practice to audit and while undertaking this audit you will learn about this area in great detail. This knowledge and experience will be of use in the future, particularly during your radiology interview. Demonstrating this knowledge in your interview will greatly work in your favour.
If you haven't done anything so far in radiology to boost your CV, then an audit is a good start!
How do I get started?
Firstly, you need a supervisor. Don't even attempt a radiology audit without involving someone senior in the radiology department because when it comes to implementing any changes, you will hit a brick wall.
Ideally your supervisor should be a radiology consultant who can help you set your objectives, keep your project on track, and help you troubleshoot any issues. There is also the added advantage that if you don't have time to complete a re-audit, or if you move jobs before it's finished, the consultant can help find someone else to finish your project so all your hard work does not go to waste.
Secondly, you need an audit topic. It may be that your radiology department already has an idea for you in mind, but if you need inspiration then an excellent source of radiological audit materials is RCR AuditLive, where there are 100+ audit recipes with standards, targets, audit data collection tools and guides, recommended sample sizes etc. Utilising this resource cannot be recommended enough for the completion of a radiology-centred audit.
What makes a good topic?
This does require some thought. Don't just leap in with the first idea you have. It's a good idea to consider the following factors when selecting an audit topic:
- Is it a priority for your department/hospital/trust? e.g. Is it in an area with a high volume of work?
- Is the issue topical? If so, consultants are more likely to help and will be keen to strive for change.
- Is there a previous audit or topic that was never re-audited (i.e. the loop was not closed)? If so this is a good audit to get involved with. The method and guidelines will have already been determined as you'll be expanding on the work of someone else, who incidentally will be very grateful to you for closing the loop.
What is the best sort of audit?
The best audit is a 'closed-loop' audit based in radiology which is presented at a national or international level. By 'closed-loop' we mean that an action plan was implemented and the impact of the action plan determined.
Where can I present my audit?
Why undertake an audit unless you want to share your findings? A key element of audit is dissemination your findings and implementing recommendations for improvement. An excellent way to do that is via an oral presentation in the local department where you undertook the audit. Following this you should work with your supervisor to quickly implement any changes or improvements to the service, and then undertake a re-audit.
Once the re-audit is completed (i.e. you have completed a closed-loop audit), you should be in a position to submit an abstract of your findings to a congress or meeting, leading to a poster or oral presentation. This is where the real value in audit lies - being able to showcase your findings and subsequent service improvements to help other departments and hospitals who may wish to do the same.
Audit examples (from RCR Audit Live)
- X-ray confirmation of nasogastric tube placement: documentation in patient notes
- Adequacy of cervical spine x-rays in trauma
- Urgent CT Brain scans for LP
- Compliance with NICE guidelines on head injury and CT brain
Need more help or advice?
Please get in touch if you would like any help or advice on undertaking a radiological audit. We understand how challenging this can be, so drop us a message and we'll get back to you.