Like many radiographers who have gone on to the scale the heights of their chosen profession, Lisa Bisset decided to enter training somewhat randomly.
“From day one I loved it but I kind of fell into it,” she laughs. “I’d done my A levels and gone travelling. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I came back. In the local paper I saw an advert for a degree course in radiography that started the following week. So, within a week I was on a university course because somebody had dropped out. The way it all fell together was just luck.”
Lisa soon began to feel passionate about the NHS and inspired by the people working in it. “When I did my training, you were part of the team. You did Saturdays, you worked Christmas. You booked annual leave like everybody else. I can still remember the names of those radiographers I instantly admired and I can still picture them. They were role models, the people who immediately make you think: ‘Yeah, I want to be like you.’” She is keen to promote the job to future students. “It is now an exciting, challenging career path for people. I just want to make sure that students are aware of that at an early age. We don’t want to miss out on those good students.”
Soon after qualifying, Lisa took a direction that would go on to define her career and she discovered that opportunities were developing rapidly.
“I started in mammography in 1997. And, at that time, there wasn’t advanced practice, not in my awareness. Anyway, gradually mammographers started to film rate. Now, obviously, this was brought about by service need and a lack of radiologists – but it was really successful and it was taken on and recognised quite quickly that radiographers were more than capable of doing this.
“And then, gradually, radiographers were doing everything. Somebody was doing ultrasound, somebody was doing biopsies and then we were doing the full package, which would replace a radiologist.”
Lisa acknowledges things weren’t always easy in the early days of extended roles.
“My experience of becoming a consultant radiographer is very different to the consultant radiographers who’ve come behind me because, when I started, I was the only one. I was on my own and I wasn’t really sure what I was supposed to be doing. I learned the hard way and that’s fine.”
Lisa feels that, as a radiographer, she is uniquely qualified to be the clinical director of the Dorset Breast Screening Unit – particularly during the pandemic – because she has such extensive experience of all aspects of the work.
“I’ve been a superintendent. I’ve been an advanced practitioner. I’ve been doing
it forever. We had to react to things quite quickly but, being able to lead the team through Covid and the recovery, I think was helped by the fact that I am a radiographer.”
Despite the huge pressure the Covid-19 pandemic placed on services, Lisa believes it changed mindsets in a positive way.
“We were involved in a project called the Dorset Health Village. It’s basically an outpatient facility in a shopping centre. Post-pandemic, it was amazing to see how suddenly we could all start thinking about things differently. The enthusiasm and the drive from the people on that team was infectious.
“Everybody was tired, we had a whole mountain to climb in terms of recovery and, suddenly, you’re in a meeting with people who are larger-than-life characters and enthusiastic. Some of these people have been involved in the Nightingale hospitals. So this project is now up and running and is really successful.”
So, what does Lisa advise others wanting to progress in the profession?
“If there’s something that you want to do, don’t be shy about it. Speak up. If you’ve got ambitions, if you’ve got somewhere you want to go, it might take you a while to get there but you will make it.”