I graduated with honours in physics from the University of Dundee at the age of 21. As a student, I had worked in a hotel in various roles and continued to do so for about a year as I applied for jobs in physics. Getting a job in the area was proving tough as I didn’t arrange any proper workplace experience as a student – in hindsight, something I regret. Whilst looking for a job though, I came across an advert for the radiotherapy and oncology course at QMU. I didn’t really know what the course would involve but I found out that therapeutic radiographers were highly in demand and job prospects were very good. The course is designed to allow science graduates to change career in two years and with my physics job search proving unsuccessful, I decided that I had nothing to lose and applied to the course.

I was offered an interview for the course, so decided to find out more about therapeutic radiography by visiting a radiotherapy department in a local hospital. There was lots of physics involved and I was impressed by the equipment. My mother had also been through successful cancer treatment, which at the time I didn’t know much about, but then realised that I would be learning about treatments that she herself had gone through. This obviously made me eager to learn about it and help other people as my mother had been helped.

On successfully getting a place on the course, I had an enjoyable time. Class sizes were small and the group interacted well. We had a range of backgrounds, skills and experience and it really helped the learning experience as we were able to share our knowledge and help one another in the early stages before we moved on to more in-depth oncology topics.

We would study a specific topic to get a grip on it before moving on to the next, and in that way the knowledge built itself up from a sound base. Along with book work and assessments, we carried out many varied group tasks such as designing posters, performing experiments with x-ray film, doing presentations etc. These all helped to make the course more interesting and kept you on your toes. Support from lecturers and other staff was always available. Everyone was approachable and I never felt nervous about emailing or knocking on someone’s door if I needed help in any area. You always got the feeling that they were behind you and wanted you to succeed.

 

"I am glad that I opted to become a therapeutic radiographer – it’s an enjoyable and rewarding career. The initial PgDip did exactly as described, it gave me excellent job prospects in the field of radiotherapy and oncology as it has for my classmates. The placement aspect gave you the opportunity to visit all of the radiotherapy departments in Scotland and so gave a good base of knowledge to begin my career within any department that I would choose to work in."
Malcolm Farnan

Aside from the classroom set up, there was a strong emphasis on doing the job and I completed several placements in radiotherapy centres throughout the summer months. It was quite full on, but this was the way in which you really learned how to do the job, working alongside those who were doing it for real.

I initially applied to only study for the PgDip and went onto work as a therapeutic radiographer for three years at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, but I was keen to learn more and decided to go back to QMU to study for the MSc.

To attain an MSc required further study which I carried out part-time over two years. I completed this whilst working full-time, but it was delivered by distance learning and all of the materials were online for easy access. At MSc leveI, the onus was on me to take responsibility for my learning, but help was always available by email if required. The MSc gave me the opportunity to learn outside of the workplace environment and meet up again with friends and lectures from the PgDip. It also gave me the opportunity to complete a dissertation on a topic of my choice. I carried out a study on the use of patient clothing in the radiotherapy department. The results from the study allowed me to improve efficiency in my work environment and ensure patients maintained their dignity while they were with us. The extra qualification will always be a benefit in my career progression and I am at the moment in the process of submitting the study for publication in the Journal of Radiotherapy in Practice.

I am glad that I opted to become a therapeutic radiographer – it’s an enjoyable and rewarding career. The initial PgDip did exactly as described, it gave me excellent job prospects in the field of radiotherapy and oncology as it has for my classmates. The placement aspect gave you the opportunity to visit all of the radiotherapy departments in Scotland and so gave a good base of knowledge to begin my career within any department that I would choose to work in. I also met a large proportion of the therapeutic radiography staff in Scotland and so have contacts in other departments if they are ever needed.

Radiotherapy and Oncology (Pre-Registration)

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