Radiography: area of practice

A radiographer is involved in every aspect of a patient's treatment.

There are two sorts of radiographer: diagnostic and therapeutic. Diagnostic radiographers produce high-quality images to diagnose an injury or disease. They use a range of techniques including X-rays, computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound.

Diagnostic radiographers see patients with an enormous range of different injuries and conditions including accident and emergency work, which is often the result of road accidents. They will also see patients with fractures and people from outpatient clinics.Some radiographers are qualified to carry out treatment reviews on behalf of the consultants and can also prescribe drugs.

A therapeutic radiographer is part of an oncology team that treats patients who have cancer. Using ionising radiation, the radiographer delivers doses of radiation to the tumour, whilst minimising the amount of exposure to surrounding healthy tissue. A radiographer is involved in every aspect of the treatment, including pre-treatment preparation, planning, the treatment itself and the follow-up stages.

Skills required

Both diagnostic and therapeutic radiographers need good interpersonal skills to communicate with other members of the team and to provide support for patients. Therapeutic radiographers in particular will get to know their patients because they will see them regularly through the course of treatment. It is important that they can develop a rapport with the individual and their family to support them throughout the treatment.

Starting out

A significant part of a BSc in diagnostic or therapeutic radiography is spent working in imaging or radiotherapy departments. There is time spent in the classroom of course, but it is important to introduce the student to the ‘real world’ of treating patients as quickly as possible.

Career prospects have improved considerably in recent years with the number of radiographers becoming advanced practitioners or consultants growing steadily in number.