My return to practice

Published: 18 October 2016 Ezine

Author: Tanya Pulham DCR(R), BSc (Hons)

In August I found myself coming full circle, once again a student, excited and apprehensive. I qualified with DCR as a diagnostic radiographer in 1991 having trained at the Stoke-on-Trent School of Radiography.  

A 14-year career followed during which time I worked at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Wythenshawe Hospital where I was SoR health and safety rep, and Stafford Hospital where I was SoR IR rep and forensic lead.  

I’ve held roles as co-founder and member of the North West and Mersey SoR Regional Health and Safety Committee, member of the SoR’s National Health and Safety Forum, member of the UK Trauma Imaging Group and completed BSc(Hons) Diagnostic Radiography with Anglia Polytechnic University (now Anglia Ruskin) in 2003.

In 2003, I slipped on a plastic bag in my workplace, a small event at the time.

The resulting back pain went on to end my career. In 2006, following treatment in April 2005, I was retired from the NHS. 

In 2006, I took delivery of my first Motability vehicle, fully hand-operated (I was unable to use my right leg and foot).

My second and final Motability vehicle was funded by the SoR’s Benevolent Fund, following written support from friend and former colleague, Andy Pitt. 

My condition was lumbar radiculopathy, right-sided sciatica, right foot drop. I used a walking aid and wore a fixed ankle/foot orthotic (AFO) on my right leg/foot, resulting in being forced to wear 6E width shoes. Try buying those in a fashionable style!

A cocktail of painkillers kept pain to a dull ache. In summer 2015, our family took a holiday in Pembrokeshire, near St David’s. Not far from where we stayed is St Non’s well, said to have sprung up at the moment of St David’s birth and reputed to have healing properties.

It’s in a beautiful spot adjacent to the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and the old monastery of St Non, now a retreat.  

After visiting this well and praying in St Non’s Chapel, I found sensation had returned to my right foot and leg and I was pain free.

Excitedly and foolishly I stopped taking the meds – they had awful side effects – and began to enjoy decent walks for the first time in ten years and shoes I liked!

On 21 September 2015, I was officially signed fit for work. Job Centre Plus revealed that although benefits would stop, Jobseekers Allowance and the assistance of a Jobseekers Advisor could not be accessed for a month.  

I applied for a role at Orsett House Retirement Home in Barlaston and the work enabled me to access the University of Derby’s Return to Practice course which began on 17 August.

In order to access the course, I completed work experience at Leighton Hospital, Crewe and County Hospital, Stafford. A Skype interview with our lecturer, Sue Erett and my mentor, Sally Taylor, was the final event and my delight at being offered a place on the course can only be imagined.  

Four former radiographers are in our cohort. Our first day in university was daunting, exciting, tiring and perhaps a little frustrating.

We found out how the course will unfold, learned about the expectations and the targets we need to meet.

We discussed our own expectations which included getting up-to-date with the current NHS, the modern imaging equipment, especially DR, and learning the updated legislation relevant to the radiographer’s role. 

We also talked about our reasons for returning and our perceived challenges and fears, which were mainly feelings of anxiety after our respective gaps in practice and feeling rather daunted by being student radiographers again after lengthy former practice.

Concerns were raised about dealing with other staff groups and being the visitor in a group accustomed to working together regularly.

After paperwork and occupational health appointments we learned that our first day on clinical will be 4 October. There was a slight anti-climax at this point – we are all very keen to get started!