This is a question I get asked alot, people seem genuinely intrigued by my new career choice. Many assume I am a nurse specialising in something or more often a diagnostic radiographer. Well I thought it was about time I explained the what I do as therapeutic radiographer and why it is very different to my collegues role in diagnostic radiography. Whether you or a member of your family has ever had to have an xray, a CT or MRI scan, you would have met a diagnostic radiographer. Their role is similar yet very different to mine and they can be found in several departments in the hospital, however you will only find therapeutic radiographers in the oncology department.
Radiotherapy is a key and often primary treatment for many types of cancer. Using targeted megavoltage xrays we kill tumour cells, pinpointing treatment within millimetres to avoid damaging normal tissue. This is a very simple explanation and my training has included whole modules on radiation physics and how the treatment works biologically as well as how the machines work. My role is varied but very specialised as theraputic radiographers plan and deliver treatment as well as managing patients side effects throughout treatment. From the first visit to the radiotherapy department for a planning CT scan, to a patients treatment plan being created and then actually delivering the treatment, no two days are ever the same. When I qualify I will quite possibly become more specialised in either pre-treatment or treatment, as this seems the normal path in most departments.
One the best parts of my job is that I get to know the patients, seeing them every day for four to seven weeks. Over that time you get to know them, can help them on days when treatment is taking its toll, to just being there to ask if they are ok or greeting them with a smile. This is the reason I chose therapeutic over diagnostic radiography, I wanted to be able to offer continuity of care. Although people often wonder if my job is depressing, cancer isn't normally a cheery subject. Yet I can assure you my job is far from depressing, patients amaze me every day, just because they have cancer it doesn't mean they lose their sense of humour. They are incredible with the way they cope and their determination is inspiring. Admittedly there are some days that are tough, but I didn't go into this job because it was easy, I chose it because I wanted to care for people.
So there is a little insight in to the role of a therapeutic radiographer. In the next few weeks I will write in more detail about the actual degree course, just incase any of you are considering a career change. In the meantime you can find out more about the role of a therapeutic radiographer on the Society of Radiographers website and find out more about radiotherapy on the Cancer Research website.
Until next time, take care.