Elizabeth Marriott, from Falkirk, is studying MSc Mammography at QMU.
Elizabeth’s first professional qualification was the Diploma of the College of Radiographers (Radiodiagnosis) (DCR (R)), which she completed in Glasgow in 1994. She was one of the final year of students to be enrolled on the course before the implementation of the BSc in Radiography.
Elizabeth worked for almost ten years as a general radiographer before starting a family.
Before starting the PgCert Mammography in 2011, Elizabeth had taken a career break of six years. She returned to a job in mammography with the breast screening service and was required to undertake the course at QMU as part of that job.
Why did you choose to study MSc/PgCert Mammography at QMU?
“The course was offered by the Scottish Mammography Education Centre (SMEC), which oversees the clinical training of most mammographers in Scotland. Links between SMEC and QMU were long established in my workplace, and therefore enrolment at QMU was automatic. It made sense to carry on doing the non-clinical MSc modules at QMU as the clinical courses I have completed are also offered; it kept everything together and I started to build a lasting relationship with the university.”
What did you hope the course would give you in terms of career progression and continuing personal development?
“I hoped the course would teach me how to perform mammography safely and that I could learn to look at things more critically and be able to justify my actions if needed, which of course it did. I genuinely wanted to progress and had the silent aspiration of eventually working as a consultant radiographer, but it was enough for me at that point just to find my feet both clinically and academically.
“Once I’d completed the PgCert, I was much more comfortable with the level of work required and knew for definite that I wanted to progress. I completed the Research Methods module and a year later I was promoted into a Clinical Specialist role in my workplace, which required me to undertake the Stereotactic Breast Biopsy course.
“I was audited by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) in 2015 prior to the radiographer’s registration window opening and had lots of evidence to present to them for meeting the requirements of Continuous Professional Development (CPD) and how I met their standards of proficiency due to the range of modules I had completed.
“Having completed the Mammographic Image Interpretation course in 2016, I had my sights firmly set on Consultant Practice and began applying for suitable jobs. Without the courses I’ve completed at QMU, none of this would have been possible.”
Did you select any single online modules?
“The completed is Research Methods module, which is fully delivered online. As a single 30-credit module, it prepared me for statistics and methodology, as well as individual research methods in the dissertation writing phase of the MSc. It also distanced me from the support I had during the clinical modules and made me more autonomous when it came to researching and writing the proposal for the module.
“I was able to link in to the recorded lectures, which fitted around my full-time role as a mammographer at the time.”
How did you find the workload? Could you comment on the support available to you?
“The workload is very much course dependent. The PgCert was not too pressing on my time, but I still had to be very organised to ensure I had time to prepare everything adequately – I like to have time to complete work with a few weeks to spare so I can review it again and correct any errors prior to submission, and I was able to do that without too much of an issue.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the Research Methods course, which was very well supported and had lots of online resources for distance learning students. The liaison librarian for mammography (Laurie Roberts) was also a great source of information and was always happy to help.
“When I moved on to the clinical courses (Stereotactic Biopsy and Mammographic Image Interpretation), there was the added requirement of lots of personal audit and limited access to clinical mentors - who of course have their own roles to undertake in addition to looking after students.
“I had to juggle a lot more by learning a new clinical skill each time, auditing my performance, justifying my decisions to senior colleagues where required, and linking everything together for portfolio submission or final assessment. I was very well supported by my mentoring radiologists and got to know them very well – and more to the point, they also got to know me as I was very quiet and reserved before I started the clinical modules.
“The support from QMU was ongoing in the background for help with the academic side of things, however these courses are extremely intense in the clinical environment and most of the pressure is experienced during active learning.
“My dissertation is now complete, and I’m hoping to graduate this year with the MSc Mammography after seven years of almost continuous study.
“My supervisor, Alanah Kirby, has been a huge support to me. She won’t thank me for saying it, but I don’t know what I’d have done without her guidance and support. The dissertation process for me was somewhat fragmented for various reasons, but overall it has been enjoyable to get the MSc to a stage completion and start reaping with rewards of the hard work I’ve put in.”
Are you working during the course?
“Apart from the first few months when I returned to practice and I was employed part-time, I have worked full-time and undertaken the MSc Mammography on a part-time basis.
“I also supported my husband who completed a BSc (Hons) in Human Nutrition and Dietetics in 2017.”
Have you received any funding to help support your studies?
“I’m very lucky that my employers have met the funding requirements of the coursework I’ve undertaken so far, as most of the coursework has had the benefit of extending my clinical role.”
How do you think your QMU degree has equipped you with the skills and knowledge to development your career?
“I’m now employed as a Consultant Mammographer and I’m still in training at this time. The courses I’ve undertaken have not only provided me with the clinical skills I require everyday to do my job, but I’ve developed confidence, a thicker skin and more of the resilience which is required at this level of practice. My learning has been both clinically and personally empowering.”
What top tips would you offer future students based on your own personal experience?
“Embrace the academic help available. Tutors and librarians are a fabulous source of knowledge and they are more than happy to help. But it is also essential that as individuals, we all take responsibility for our own learning. At postgraduate level, we should undertake these courses in the knowledge of what is expected and how we as individuals are going to plan to achieve the learning outcomes.
“As a healthcare professional, it’s been very important for me to align courses to both my clinical practice and the ultimate aspiration of operating as an autonomous Consultant Practitioner.
“I think it’s incredibly important to set your own expectations accordingly and ensure you remain on track, working steadily, taking advantage of every opportunity presented, and never losing focus of what you ultimately want. It’s not easy, particularly for students who have other commitments, but the end results are worth the hard work. My family have been incredibly supportive and that has helped tremendously.”
What are your plans after graduating from QMU?
“After graduation I intend on taking a year out. I’d like to spend some time consolidating my clinical skills as I’m also doing a breast ultrasound course at the present time. By 2020 however, I hope to be in the process of starting a PhD at QMU.”
"I thoroughly enjoyed the Research Methods course, which was very well supported and had lots of online resources for distance learning students."