We talk to Robert Clewlow who joined us this year to find out what its like to work in radiography and why he loves his job so much.
How long have you been at Cobalt?
I’ve been working at Cobalt for about four months now. I originally worked in finance. In 2013, I started my degree as a diagnostic radiographer at the University of the West of England.
How did you find out about radiography as a career?
I had scans and X-rays when I was younger and always had that initial interest. I wanted to get into radiography and do something that I felt fulfilled in. It went from there really. I went to my local hospital and spent a week shadowing their radiographers in the department looking around. From that I got a sense of what it was about and to see patient interactions. I then applied to Cobalt and here we are! A bit of a change from finance!
If someone were considering a career as a radiographer what would your advice be?
My advice is to get in contact with your local hospital or clinic and ask if you can have a look around. Follow a radiographer around, see what they do in their day to day work, spend some time with patients and just get a feel for the department and what your day to day working life’s going to be like.
What makes Cobalt special to you? Was there any particular reason you chose to come and work at Cobalt?
I liked Cobalt because they’re a charity. They invest all their money back into equipment so I get the benefit of working on state of the art equipment. The number one reason was they’re very patient centred. They put patients at the centre of everything they do.
Do you work in a big team? Do you work with the same people regularly?
One of the nice parts of the job is I work with a big team and a wide range of people. Every day is different. I rotate into different departments and different sites so I get the benefit of working with different people in different locations, which always keeps it nice and interesting. No one day is the same.
Do you have to stay away from home a lot?
Travelling is part of the job. In mobile radiography you do travel to different destinations around the country. It’s good because you get to see new places. Each day is different. You also get put up in nice accommodation and looked after well in terms of food. You go to work feeling rested.
In terms of studies, what did you do your degree in?
I did my initial degree in diagnostic imaging which is the basic radiography degree. It gives you the basic set of skills as a radiographer. Then I was fortunate enough to come to Cobalt and specialise in MRI radiography. Cobalt are very, very good with their education and their knowledge so it’s a great place to learn and really pick up the skills.
How long did you have to study for?
The degree was three years to do the basic radiography and after that you can go out and work in a hospital and start off in plain film radiography which is plain film X-rays. After that you can look to specialise and go into different areas of radiography, be that CT, MRI or nuclear medicine. For me it was always clear and apparent my interest lay in MRI. Cobalt was the perfect place to follow that up.
What’s a typical day like?
I’m still in training, a six month training phase at Cobalt. I’m doing 8am-6pm shifts at the moment, which is quite a long day. I’ve got quite a bit of travelling in between, in the morning and at night, just because I’m currently living in Bristol. A typical day is arrive, set up where I’m working, whether it be on the mobile scanner or one of the stationary sites. Just get the room ready, get our patients round and begin scanning. We generally work in pairs of two.
How many patients do you scan on average?
I’d say 10-14 patients, some lists can be longer. It depends on the working day and how long the list is. We can get short lists. We can finish at 5.00pm or we can go right through to 7.30pm. We do get long scans. We do get short days. We also do clinics at Cobalt so the day can be extended because we fit in a clinic of knee scans or lumbar spine scans.
Someone coming along for scan might be quite anxious about the procedure or the results. How do you deal with that? How do you go about reassuring them?
It’s put yourself in the patients shoes really. I always think if it was my mum or dad or if it was me, how would I want to be treated, how would I be feeling. It’s all about taking an empathetic approach. I always say to patients we’ll take it at your speed, you’re in control and just be very aware of the patients body language, lots of talking, lots of explaining about the situation. We always reassure patients that if we need to bring them out the scanner or they want to come out, they can come out straight away. We talk to them throughout the whole scan. We’re watching them on video camera. We’re watching them through the windows. There are lots of regular updates. We can pop music on. We’ve got a nice brand spanking new ambient lights system with our state of the art 3.0T scanner. That helps patients to forget about the scanner and the noise and feel like they are somewhere else. We can show them nice pictures and even play a dvd.
If you see something in the imaging that’s of concern, can you tell the patient?
As radiographers we specialise as health care professionals producing the images, the physics behind that and getting good images. To diagnose those images is an extremely skilled task. It requires years and years of expertise as a doctor and further training as a consultant so it would be unfair of us to comment on the image. That’s best left to the consultants.
What’s the best thing about your job?
The best thing about my job is I get to work on state of the art equipment with good people. Cobalt’s made up of a fantastic set of people, a fantastic team, a lot of expertise. People really know their stuff. I really enjoy working on the best equipment and being taught by the best people.
What’s the worst thing about your job?
I probably drink far too much tea!
You’re clearly in your dream job but if you could do anything else what would it be?
I’ve always had a passion for flying. I took flying lessons when I was younger. If I had the money and the correct eyesight I’d be a commercial pilot but I’d say Cobalt is on a par with that and I am really, really happy. I really enjoy my day to day work.
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