There are two types of radiography – diagnostic and therapeutic.
Diagnostic radiographers use x-rays, ultrasound and other forms of imaging technology to examine patients. They are responsible for acquiring the image and frequently they interpret the images and diagnose illnesses and injuries.
They may contribute towards establishing treatment plans and can also be involved in intervention procedures, e.g. the removal of kidney stones.
As a diagnostic radiographer, you would usually work in a hospital radiography department. You could also work in other places, like outpatient clinics, accident and emergency wards or operating theatres.
Therapeutic radiographers work as part of an oncology team, specialising in the planning and administration of radiotherapy treatment for patients, most of whom have cancer. Some cancers are best treated with drugs, some with surgery and others respond well to precisely targeted doses of radiation, and often these treatments are combined to improve their effect.
Using a wide range of technical equipment, the radiographer delivers accurate doses of radiation to the tumour to destroy the diseased tissue, while minimising the amount of radiation to surrounding healthy tissue.
The work involves planning and delivering a course of treatment for a cancer patient, from the initial referral through to providing post-treatment follow-up care.
As a therapeutic radiographer, you would work in a specially equipped radiotherapy or oncology centre.
Both areas of radiography involve working as part of a team alongside radiologists, clinical oncologists, physicists, radiology nurses and other health care professionals.
As a diagnostic radiographer, your work would involve:
- assessing patients and their clinical requirements to determine appropriate radiographic techniques;
- performing a range of radiographic examinations on patients to produce high-quality images;
- observing and maintaining contact with patients during their waiting, examination and post-examination stay in the department;
- assisting in more complex radiological examinations working with radiologists and doctors and surgeons;
- providing support and reassurance to patients, taking into account their physical and psychological needs;
- recording imaging identification and patient documentation quickly and accurately and observing protocols to ensure compliance with the Data Protection Act and patient confidentiality;
- supervising assistant practitioners, students and other staff, and delivering appropriate education and training;
- understanding and observing health and safety at work and welfare issues, including ionising radiation regulations, to protect yourself and others;
- ensuring that equipment is regularly checked for malfunctions and any faults are reported.
As a therapeutic radiographer, your duties would include:
- planning a course of treatment with clinical oncologists and physicists, which may be complex and requires high levels of accuracy and care;
- calculating the radiation dosage and mapping the area to be treated, while minimising the dose given to normal tissue;
- seeking patient cooperation and trust and showing sensitivity;
- developing a relationship with the patient and the patient’s family;
- explaining the treatment and the processes used;
- explaining the management of any possible radiotherapy side effects;
- administering radiation treatment accurately and safely;
- operating technical equipment responsibly and confidently;
- observing and assessing patients' responses to treatment, often on a daily basis;
- carrying out post-treatment reviews and follow-up consultations;
- keeping accurate records;
- producing reports as and when required;
- attending meetings and patient reviews;
- keeping up to date by attending all relevant training on treatment and equipment;
- supervising and monitoring the work of radiography assistants and student radiographers;
- liaising closely with a range of staff, who may include medical staff, consultants, registrars, trainee doctors, nurses, medical physicists, engineers, and a range of other allied health professionals such as dieticians, physiotherapists, speech therapists and occupational therapists.