Radiology is Awesome…and here’s why!

Radiology is Awesome…and here’s why!

2B or not 2B, that is the question... (if that does not make sense now...it will some day)

So over the years I’ve noticed that when talking to other doctors at weddings, family get togethers and other social events I get asked the same questions about radiology. Often it is with someone who is considering applying. Every once in a while it is with someone who has never ever considered it as a career option before.

I guess when you start medical school you wouldn’t normally think to yourself – ‘I want to sit in a dark room and look at scans all day’. Usually people go into medicine imagining that they will become the big shot hero coming in to save the day in surgery. Dreams of becoming the neurosurgeon at the bar with the bevy of ladies around you whilst you recall stories of difficult surgeries and saving lives. But then, you start working. You hit the junior doctor years and you look up to your seniors and think to yourself, could I really do what they are doing for so long? Give up weekends, nights, do research and basically give your life away for the job. That’s what it can take to get on the ladder towards those coveted dreams. As you start to notice more and more of your time that you would otherwise be spending with your family and friends disappear into the whirlpool that is the hospital ward you start to think of the other options. And then it hits you…you go to the radiology department at 445pm and no one is there! These radiologists might be onto something here…

So for the people who are starting radiology this will hopefully tell you why you have made the best decision ever. For those of you thinking about it, maybe I can convince you to go for it :-)

Lifestyle

  • Most days if not everyday you start at 9am and finish 5pm. You also have a designated lunch break – no more missed meals.
  • It’s run through in one place. None of this re-applying for the next stage of training. Once you have a number you will be done in FIVE years. It is very possible to be able to become a fully fledged consultant by the time you are 30!
  • There is no paper work. My work bag has a pen and my lunch.
  • The on-calls can get busy. But if you love scans (like I do) then they are fine. Once you are a consultant the on calls may be from home, you have have registrars doing the nights for you or the hospital outsources the overnight scans.

It’s Really Interesting

So think about it. If you are on the wards an interesting patient can happen to be on your take. More often than not, they are going to ‘run of the mill’. Not that there is anything wrong with that, because you get good at doing the ‘run of the mill’. An interesting patient may come in every once in a while and you have to deal with something you have never encountered before but more often than not, you don’t. Remember what it was like in medical school? Where you were hit with a patient clinical scenario and you had to think of what the underlying disease/problem is? Well radiology is like that every day. You get (limited) information on the request card, you can check the bloods and look at the previous images. Using that you have to weigh up what might actually be going on with the patient and come to a diagnosis. It is bringing that clinical puzzle back into your life and making medicine fun again!

We get a vast number of ‘normal’ scans because we pretty much scan every single patient in the hospital, so if there is anything interesting coming in, it will go through radiology at some point. It will come up at MDT and at the very least, someone in the department will show you the images at a later date. The unique thing about radiology is that once a scan is done, it can be ‘re-lived’. You can look at it years down the line and learn/teach from it. Every radiologist has an interesting scan in their stash or there will be someone in the department that will have seen something interesting come in during the day and will discuss it with you. I would go as far as to say that I have never had a day when I haven’t found something interesting to look at work.

It’s Very Sociable

I get this question ALL the time. I find it bizarre. People must really really really love their interactions with their patients. It can be a great experience but the majority of the ones I have witnessed are anything but positive. Patients these days a very demanding, hate doctors and blame the medical profession for their conditions. I remember having to explain to a patient as best as I could as to why they do not need further investigations, only to be told to repeat the conversation with the family who have turned up at 6pm. I didn’t like having to do that kind of thing, realising my clock off time had long gone, but if you can honestly say you will miss that then radiology is probably not for you.

When a patient comes in for a scan they are usually very happy to see you. They have been waiting for the scan for ages and are looking forward to getting to the bottom of their problems. If they start to get a bit agro then you can use the phrase I employ-

‘It’s best you talk to the ward doctors, they will have the report by the time you next see them’.

If the patient starts to really hassle you for the results there and then, it is best to not divulge information. Your job is not to tell them their possible diagnosis. You might be wrong, and if it’s bad news you are not expected to council them. I use the phrase-

‘The scans are very complex and these images are on a small screen. I will have to look at them closer on a larger screen, write the report and send it to your doctor. The report will be with them very soon’.

But you are probably thinking, hang on…when does a radiologist even see patients? Well, you see them in ultrasound, flouroscopy and intervention to name just a few scenarios. But, yes…you see less of them than if you were on the wards or clinics.

We are often thought to be sitting in a dark room and not interacting with any other soul on a daily basis. It is completely untrue. First of all, we do not sit alone in our rooms like a GP would. I found GP very lonely. Sitting in a room all day as patient after patient came in complaining about one thing or another. Those are not conversations. They are consultations or ‘one way conversations’. In radiology we sit in reporting rooms with colleagues/seniors/juniors. Conversation can range from what interesting scans have come in to what is happening on Bake-off!

Some interactions with clinical teams can get heated when you are having to deal with a doctor who has learned the majority of their medicine from The Simpsons.

The vast majority of the interactions are good. Often you get to know the good doctors and it’s really nice to discuss scans with them. You can have  fruitful professional relationship and can both learn from each other. It is really great when it all just works :-)

Research

If you like research there is literally loads of things you can get stuck in to (check the RCR website). You could take part in some really pioneering stuff and the college encourage it. There are academic radiology posts where you can take part in research or trails of some sort.

If you do not like to do research then if you know how, there are a few ways to get work published with minimal effort. Radiologists in general are not great at getting papers and publications. If you finished radiology with a handful of publications/research you are doing VERY Well.

Jobs

Believe it or not, the world needs more radiologists. There are simply not enough radiologists in the country/world to stay on top of the work load. Most if not all hospitals have a backlog of scans budding much of the business of teleradiology. So at the moment there are plenty of consultant jobs around. Take a look at the BMJ jobs and see what you find if you are unsure of what I say.

Also, there is the option of working for the dark side of the dark side aka a teleradiology company. By working for a teleradiology job you could end up working in Barcelona/Sydney reporting the scans of the UK getting paid handsomely. You could even work from home! The company sets you up with the computer, screens and even pay for the internet connection. If you don’t believe me…google search ‘teleradiology job’ and see what you can find :-)

Conclusion

In my personal opinion I do not understand why everyone does not do radiology. It is honestly something that I look forward to being part of every day. If it wasn’t for doing radiology, I do not think I would have been a practising doctor any more. If you haven’t considered it, I really feel you should. If you are starting in it, then well done!

If you have any specific questions about the job/training please feel free to comment/contact me. I can use it to update this post if needs be.