RAD conference opens hearts and minds

Published: 27 April 2016 Ezine

A group of six students from Sheffield Hallam University ran a student-led radiotherapy-based conference called RAD in March.

It was the third of its kind and had a great turnout from students of different health professions, educators and service users.

Organising the conference

Radiotherapy is a profession which requires team work, a skill that organising such an event certainly requires.

Second year student Sarah Foden, explained: “Together we contacted speakers, advertised the event, bought wine and baked cakes to fundraise for Marie Curie, and arranged activities for guests.

“We had a #hellomynameis photo booth in support of Kate Grainger’s campaign and asked guests to contribute to our collage of NHS change ideas."

What really matters

Joanna McNamara, senior lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, began the conference with an introduction to radiotherapy, as well as discussing the epidemiology of cancer.

First year student Luke Fynn reports: “The highlight of the presentation was an insightful video clip of a service user on her experience with cancer.

“The video highlighted what it was like to undergo treatment, the feelings and issues that are faced, such as alopecia.

“The video also defined what is truly important for service users – a sentiment we as student radiographers should remember and appreciate every time we talk or interact with a patient, carer or family member.”

Empathy and confidence

The second speaker was Joanna Reynolds, a pre-treatment superintendent from James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.

Second year student Sophie Moreton explains: “Joanna was diagnosed with pleomorphic lobular breast cancer in 2013 and opted for a mastectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

“Her presentation was based around her experiences throughout this pathway and was highly inspiring for students, as well as staff and other speakers.

"One of our other speakers, Matt Smith, stated: ‘To hear a real story from the perspective of someone who has been affected by cancer and who also deals with it every day of their working life was really interesting.’

Another attendee said: ‘She emphasised how important it is not to slip into the habit of describing patients by their diagnosis.’”

Sophie says she hopes that Joanna’s speech will aid students in being empathetic towards patients, as well as improving their confidence in giving advice to patients about support groups which may benefit them.

Signposting support

Carolyn from the Maggie’s Centre in Nottingham was kind enough to present about the centre’s importance and her experience of working there.

The centre provides free support to those affected by cancer.

First year PGDip student Simone Morrison reports: “During her presentation, Carolyn shared a quote by Maggie Keswick Jenks – ‘Above all what matters is not to lose the joy of living in the fear of dying’.

Simone continues: “This quote and Carolyn’s presentation highlighted the importance of the support and care that cancer patients and loved ones need. Carolyn recommended that radiotherapy students visit a centre for at least half a day to get a better understanding of what it does, so that we can signpost patients here more effectively.”

Advances in technology

Accuray’s Matt Smith talked about the company, including Cyberknife and Tomotherapy. 

“Cyberknife can be used as an alternative to surgery, being the first robotic system to deliver stereotactic body radiation,” explains second year student Georgia Marriott.

“TomoTherapy incorporates functions of both a CT scanner and a linear accelerator, delivering radiotherapy continuously in a helical fashion around the patient, allowing precise treatment to the tumour.

“This was a very informative and interesting speech from Matt, which gave all who attended the opportunity to learn more about advances within radiotherapy.”

Simply inspirational

Talking about the experience of organising the conference, and the event itself, second year student Diana Antemir comments: “The conference raised awareness of the ‘patient first’ practice in radiotherapy. At times it was very moving. Coming together with fellow course colleagues, and other allied health professionals, was inspiring, to say the least.

“Alongside improving our organisational skills, putting together the RAD conference 2016 has been very rewarding for all of us involved. It has motivated me to conquer my fears of public speaking and I now hope to get involved in more conferences at university, and hopefully one day for more renowned organisations such as the Society of Radiographers.”

Sarah Foden concluded: “I enjoyed the entire experience, especially working with students equally as passionate about the profession as myself.”

Find the group on Twitter.