What does a Research Radiographer at Cobalt do?
Áine McGovern is a Research Radiographer for Cobalt. Cobalt is currently contributing to over 30 research projects. We undertake research in MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), PET/CT (Positron Emission Tomography/Computed Tomography, Ultrasound, CT (Computed Tomography) and Cone Beam CT.
We talk to Aine find out about her role, research and what a typical day is like.
Tell us about your role at Cobalt?
I started work here as a senior MRI radiographer becoming clinical lead for the training and education programme in the MRI department. In that role, I worked with the trainees and did a lot of teaching. In my current role as a Research Radiographer, I still do one day a week of clinical work and alternate between the MRI and PET/CT departments.
What made you want to get involved in research?
I have always had an interest in research. I have a Master’s in MRI and completed the research for that. I am currently completing a Masters of Research (MRes) to help supplement the knowledge needed to do this role. The MRI and PET/CT and CT Managers were previously doing a lot of the administration, uploading of paperwork and images for the various research projects Cobalt are involved in and it was time consuming for them. As the Charity is committed to supporting an increasing number of projects they created this role to support more research. It’s a very exciting time for us.
What research are Cobalt involved in?
Research wise, at the minute we are contributing to over 30 projects. I am designing a system to organise and manage the work. I am increasing my knowledge about the PET/CT trials as I am more familiar with the MRI ones.
We are involved in research to assist drugs trials, particularly in the fields of cancer and dementia. We initially scan the patient using PET/CT and/or MRI before they start their treatment. We can scan them as a safety measure, for example to check that the drugs are not causing any other symptoms. We are also able to scan patients to check if treatments are actually making a difference or not. The scans required will be tailor made to the individual trial and their treatments. Some patients are scanned regularly depending on what the trial is.
We also do musculoskeletal trials looking at different ways of diagnosis or as a baseline for treatments.
We also try out new ways of scanning to improve imaging techniques and to make the most of new software. Philips healthcare have given us the opportunity to try a new piece of software that we can use to improve image quality and scan faster! MRI normally takes a long time but this software is allowing us to speed up certain protocols without compromising the image quality. We were the first site in the UK to trial this and my colleague Ruth got to present our findings at a conference. We have been working with Philips to see where we can use this software and improve our workflow and patient experience.
What does a typical day look like?
I currently work usual office hours so I am around to provide support to others in the departments. When we get new research trials in, I will set the required protocols up on the scanners. These protocols have to be exactly the same for each participant and for each time that they visit. There are some very strict guidelines to adhere to. I set the paperwork up for the radiography team, so there is guidance on what people have to do and I train the radiographers. I manage our databases of the work we have done for each trial. An important part of the research is keeping really accurate records. I make sure they are complete and kept up to date. Data has to be protected and securely sent to the various research centres.
Since starting in the role, I have been meeting up with the different companies we do research for and I’ve been learning about each of them and attending research meetings in the area to represent Cobalt.
What made you choose radiography as a career?
I grew up on a farm and I really wanted to be a vet. I was very slight and skinny as a youngster and I used to shadow the vets when they came around. We had lots of cows on the farm and when it was time to make a decision about a career one of the vets had a stern conversation with me and said ‘looking at you, you’d need to start doing weight lifting, building up your frame because you won’t be able to manage it unless you want to end up being a small animal vet’. That led to him saying his brother was a MRI radiographer and he wished he had done it because as a junior vet in a practice he was always on call, had all the worst jobs, missing out on time off. I probably caught him on a bad day as well! He put me in touch with his brother at our local hospital. I’d never really thought about radiography as a career before. I’d only had a couple of x-rays. I spent some time with his brother’s colleagues and I really enjoyed it. There was lots of tea and a good atmosphere.
What’s the best thing about your job?
I like the fact that the role is expanding and that I now have the time to properly focus on it. It would be great to launch some of Cobalt’s own projects in addition to participating in others. I am a month into my course and that’s helping already. We did research studies at university and I did it for my post grad as well. It’s just such a massive subject that I was a bit apprehensive going to meetings with people who have been doing it for years but everyone has been really helpful.
What made you want to come and work for Cobalt?
I came on the international MRI in Practice course when I first started in MRI. Cobalt is the home of MRI in Practice in the UK. Peter Sharpe, the CEO of the Charity took the course delegates on a tour and I saw the in-house and one of the mobile scanners. Everyone I met seemed really chirpy and friendly and the place had a nice atmosphere. I quite liked the idea of working on a mobile scanner and I kept it in my mind. Then I came to Cheltenham for a Christmas market maybe a year or so after and I thought ‘I love it. I could live here’. When I came to the point where I was ready to move, I just happened to look and there was a job, so I thought I am going to go for it. I had also visited the centre and spent half a day here. I’ve never looked back, I love it here!