Radiography education under lockdown

Senior lecturer Robert Meertens reflects on the impact of Covid-19 on universities

Published: 30 November 2020 Educators

The recent lockdown has not surprisingly caused several headaches for radiography education providers in the UK.

At the University of Exeter this meant that our stage 1 students were unable to go out to their first clinical placement. The group were naturally extremely disappointed but took it in their stride.

We took the opportunity to replace the time lost on placement with additional clinically focussed learning. This included tutorials with clinical staff, simulation with virtual radiography software packages, alongside the traditional resources available, such as e-texts, lecture notes, and online resources.

We were incredibly grateful during this period to have access to e-Learning for Healthcare (e-LfH) as a resource. As a rule, we already help to sign up all of our students to this resource at the beginning of every academic year, so our students had existing access and were familiar with the online portal.

We primarily made use of the Interpretation of Radiological Images (e-IRI) (Image Interpretation) programme of projection radiography to help develop the image evaluation skills of stage 1 students.

We found these very comprehensive, and, with a clinical emphasis to the units, they really complemented the discussions students were having with their clinical tutors.

The sessions were pitched very well for our students, covering the basics around anatomy and radiographic techniques but also extending into less common clinical examples. Within the Image Interpretation programme there are sessions based around all the major modalities, which helps to keep building on the learning that stage 1 students had around these topics.

We made the decision to keep much of the assessment the same for the clinical placement module, despite students not having their time in hospitals. One assessment included a computer-based imaging exam and we were very pleased to see that the performance of the cohort was similar to previous cohorts. Likewise, our students performed very well in their viva exams discussing clinical scenarios, thanks to the support of our clinical tutors.

Meanwhile, our stage 2 and 3 students have an academic image interpretation module, and the Image Interpretation programme is an invaluable resource for extra practice for their image viewing exams. Our students also have CT and theatre based clinical assessments, and the e-learning sessions closely aligned to this as well.

An e-LfH Covid-19 programme was very rapidly developed. This has a real clinical focus, helping our students (and the academic staff) to understand the PPE and workplace practices being implemented to help patients. There are also valuable sessions consolidating the students’ prior learning around radiation safety and IR(ME)R 2017 legislation.

Although we have stage 3 students back into practice on placement, our stage 1 students have progressed into stage 2 and are still itching to get into hospitals. We have been very impressed with their attitude and engagement with online resources such as e-LfH and feel confident they can make up for lost time with the clinical skills they are developing outside of the hospital environment.