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What does a Radiographer do?

Radiographers are trained to appropriately use the technology that produces diagnostic images and care for the patient. Note the difference between a radiographer and a radiologist. Radiologists are specialised medical practitioners, who diagnose and treat diseases using radiant energies such as X-rays, ultrasound, gamma rays and radio waves. While a radiographer may take the X-rays, only a radiologist may interpret them.

Radiographers may also be involved in administration, personnel management or teaching. The work is highly technical and exacting. Radiographers must feel comfortable with complex instruments, possess considerable manual dexterity and have meticulous work habits. 


What qualifications do I need?

To become a radiographer, you need to obtain either a bachelor's degree or a diploma in the field of radiography. Radiography has four disiplines: diagnostic radiography, therapeutic radiography, nuclear medicine and ultrasound. Each disipline has its corresponding degree towards which you can study to become a radiographer. Like other graduates in the medical industry, newly-qualified radiographers are required to complete a year of community service at a public healthcare institution. Registration with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) is mandatory for this occupation.

What subjects do I need?

Physical Sciences
Life Sciences
Information Technology


Where can I study?

Cape Peninsula University of Technology
BSc Diagnostic Radiography - Bachelor of Science in Diagnostic Radiography
BSc Diagnostic Ultrasound - Bachelor of Science in Diagnostic Ultrasound

University of the Free State
BMed Sc (Radiation Science) - Bachelor of Medical Science with specialisation in Radiation Science

Central University of Technology
BRadiography in Diagnostics - Bachelor of Radiography in Diagnostics
NDip Radiography - National Diploma Radiography

Where can I get more info?

Society of Radiographers of South Africa - www.sorsa.org.za
Health Professions Council of South Africa - www.hpcsa.co.za


Interview with a Radiographer

Aminah Patterson | DIAGNOSTIC RADIOGRAPHER | Morton and Partners Radiology

Aminah Patterson | DIAGNOSTIC RADIOGRAPHER | Morton and Partners Radiology


Why did you choose this profession? 
It was always my dream to be in the medical field. In Grade 11, I went to Vincent Pallotti Hospital to job shadow the radiographers, and it was there that my knowledge and passion for the field grew.

Please explain what it is that you do
Radiographers work with cutting-edge technology that produces X-rays; CT (computed tomography), which are X-rays of slices in the body on three different planes; fluoroscopy – an X-ray test that examines the internal body and shows moving images on a screen like a movie; and other medical images to assist clinical radiologists and other doctors to reach a diagnosis for the patient’s condition. 

What training did you undergo?
I studied theory at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology for four years and started doing practical work in my second term in first year at Groote Schuur Hospital for the duration of my studies. We spent two weeks on campus and two weeks in the hospital every month.

Describe a typical day on the job
I start my shift at 8am, check my list of patients and whether I can call for any ward patients, if there are no outpatients waiting. I confirm the patient’s details before I start. While doing the X-ray, I like to get a brief history of why they find themselves there. I ask them about their painful anatomy while I am positioning them. Afterwards, I explain the process after the imaging, where I send the images through to one of our radiologists (doctors), who then send a report to the referring doctor. 

What do you enjoy most?
Meeting new people, being able to play a small part in helping them and the doctors reach a diagnosis and, ultimately, treating the patient based on the diagnosis given from the X-ray images I take.

What don’t you like?
I need to position the patient in a specific way to get a proper anatomical image, so when the patient is in pain it is hard to watch, even though I know it’s beneficial to them.

What’s been the highlight so far?
As a student working in the fluoroscopy department, I had a patient who told me that simply my support was easing her pain.

What are your future goals?
My future goals are to excel in the basic skills of radiography such as general and trauma radiography and CT. I would also like to specialise in mammography (breast imaging). 

Experience vs formal training?
The two go hand in hand: Formal training gives you a baseline of how to position the patient and what exposure to give when doing X-ray images. Experience gives you the ability to manipulate what you have learnt according to your patient and their abilities and needs at the time of them coming to see you.

Is there a type of personality best suited to this work?
You need excellent interpersonal and communication skills in order to explain procedures to patients, a supportive and caring nature, good observation skills and attention to detail, self-motivation and the ability to work under pressure, organisation and decision-making skills, and confidence in using technologies.

What advice would you give to newcomers?
Remember, it’s not just high-tech machinery that you’re working with, the patient and their well-being always comes first. 

Your job in three words
Educational, satisfying and challenging.


Interview date: May 2019