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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

X-Ray Sally on the ‘S’ word

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The beginning of the last month in our radiology department brought with it an ‘audit’.

Willing individuals presented the results of audits they had carried out throughout the month, we were informed of departmental protocol changes, new staff members joining the team, and inevitably the return of students. 

At the mention of the ‘s’ word, the tone in the conference room changed instantly. The majority of the room nodded, but there is always a few radiographers who sigh and bring up the age-old discussion about the inconvenience students cause. 

After all, it is human nature to find something to have a moan and a grumble about, whether it’s productive or not. It’s such attitudes which I firmly believe are counter productive and do not help in integrating students within a department.  

Although it sometimes feels like it, I didn’t qualify a million years ago, and for this reason I feel I can strongly identify with students.  

I look back on my student days mostly with fondness, but I also had the odd run in with qualified members of staff. I remember during one particularly quiet afternoon on placement, I was sat reading some anatomy books for upcoming summer exams. Not for want of earwigging, I overheard one radiographer praising a fellow student saying: ‘I’m so glad Student A isn’t here today. Don’t worry, you’re one of the good ones.’  

I automatically remember thinking “Do I fall into the ‘one of the good ones’ category or do radiographers dread working with me as well?’” I look back on this and think that such a small and blasé comment has the power to really knock someone's confidence. 

In all fairness, radiography has become such a demanding and pressurised profession, so I can wholly understand that this strain may not make teaching a priority for radiographers. 

I do, however, feel that if you are to take a job within a teaching hospital, that it is part and parcel of the profession. One radiographer said to a colleague in front of me and a fellow student that she would never take a job in a teaching hospital again because she disliked working with students. 

Sadly, I do think that most students will come across situations like this, but it’s important to remember why you started out in this profession and how minuscule this part of your career is in the grand scheme of things.

What truly baffled me as a student were the conflicting views projected by one department.  

On our first day of placement, we were informed that we wouldn’t be allowed in the staffroom on breaks because there was not enough room for both radiographers and students. In the same department, I later found myself in my final year practically running one of the x-ray rooms because they were short staffed.  

So we were made to feel like valued members of staff at the convenience of the department. Such attitudes towards students is demoralising, and whether radiology departments recognise it or not, this may be one of the causes of such high rates of student radiographers quitting the profession so early on.

Since qualifying, I have done a lot of work with students, including becoming a mentor and assessor, because I truly believe that if good strong foundations are built as a student, it bodes well for the rest of your career.  

It’s worth bearing in mind that students act as representatives of our departments. If we work to install good practice and habits, this will undoubtedly be recognised when they move on to other departments and new jobs.

As with all good stories, there are always two sides. Students need to show willing and an interest in the profession for radiographers to want to invest their time in them too. Working in a specialist paediatric department means that we get lots of students who rotate through our department, but don’t necessarily have an interest in paediatrics. 

I’ve often seen students looking bored and uninterested, but sometimes that’s because they haven’t taken the initiative to follow radiographers into rooms and probe them about what’s happening. Whether there is a genuine interest there or not, it’s always a good idea to appear interested; you never know when you might need to whip out those ‘willing and enthusiastic student’ reports in the future.

In hindsight, if I were to have my time as a student again, I would definitely voice my opinions more with my link tutor at university. They are there to bridge the gap between the university and the hospital, so it’s important to use this to your full advantage. 

Your opinions do matter and it’s important that we, as radiographers, start listening. Ultimately, our students will qualify and become our colleagues, so why not build positive working relationships from the outset?

Other stories in this issue…

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