Smile for the cameras!

When I first began looking at a career in health care, I spent some time thinking about what it was that attracted me to the idea, and whether the areas I was looking at would satisfy my interests. One of the things which drew me to radiography was the variety within the job, covering all of the different modalities (CT, ultrasound, theatre imaging, plain film, dentals, mobiles, interventional, fluoroscopy…) and then within even the most “vanilla” modality it can take some quick thinking and improvisation to get a decent image. Our patients vary in condition, regardless of what we’re x-raying; sometimes due to disability, disease, injury, cognitive state, fear, language barriers etc, and these can all affect how we have to interact with them, and can mean deviating quite considerably from the textbook methods of radiography.

An area which can really challenge a radiographer is Accident and Emergency, for the reasons listed above, but also throw in a very real sense of urgency, a suffering patient (who may be terrified and confused), anxious relatives, inpatient doctors (probably an unhelpful orthopod too for good measure) and it can feel like everything is against you.

Often we get called to resus to attend a trauma call (when a patient is handed over from the paramedics following serious accident or injury) and we have to take x-rays while the team are still working hard assessing and stabilising the patient. This requires a certain amount of assertiveness from the radiographer, as you need to be able to judge exactly which moment you will be able to take the exposure, as well as warning the team not to get in the way.

If you have watched the excellent Channel 4 series 24 Hours In A&E you’ll be somewhat familiar with this process. If you haven’t watched it, the program is one of the few reality TV shows worth your time; 90 static cameras were installed around the A&E department at King’s College Hospital and controlled from a separate location, allowing the medical staff to carry on with their work without interruption. The show typically follows 4 or 5 patients from their arrival at A&E, all the way through to a follow up a few months later. Obviously this is all done with the full consent of the patients and their relatives, as well as the staff involved in their care.

The series first aired when I was a radiography student and I was instantly hooked. As diagnostic radiographers it’s not often that we get to follow a patient’s story outside of the brief snapshot that we get to see, so it was interesting to watch what else a patient experiences during an A&E visit.

So you can imagine my surprise when I heard that Channel 4 were moving out of King’s and into my hospital! The cameras are being installed over the next few weeks and filming begins in May. Naturally some of my colleagues are dubious, but personally I think it’s brilliant news, and a clever move for Channel 4 as our helipad opens next week, meaning that the A&E department will be significantly busier by the time the cameras are switched on. I don’t know when it will be aired, but I imagine it’ll be late Autumn at the earliest, so keep an eye out for the trailers!

Incidentally this means that my place of work will no longer be a secret, but I still won’t name it openly so please don’t ask!

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