X-ray visions

Radiographers play an essential role to modern healthcare. Being involved in the early phases of diagnosis, they make it possible for patients start their track to recovery. We speak to 3+1 Health Science Scholar Azhar Samsudin about his work experience as a radiographer.

By Mabel Tan

“Did you know that it’s completely safe to stand two metres away from the X-ray machine?” Azhar Samsudin, a Radiographer at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital shares. “Many people don’t know that. When people think about X-ray, they think about harmful rays.”
In fact, according to the cheerful Azhar, we are exposed to a much higher dose of radiation while going about our daily activities than by standing in front of an X-ray machine.

“A walk under the sun is equivalent to taking ten chest X-rays. And a 4-hour plane ride is equivalent to taking a few hundred X-rays! At such a high altitude, you’ll be exposed to radiation from satellites, hand phone signals, and the environment,” the 25-year-old reveals.

If you have a passion for helping patients and possess an interest in the human anatomy, a career in radiography may be your calling. Azhar, who recently graduated with a Bachelor in Medical Radiation Imaging from the University of Newcastle, shares his experience.

Why did you pursue radiography in school?
Azhar: Actually, I didn’t choose radiography; radiography chose me. (Laughs) Post-junior college, I wanted to pursue a field of study related to my two best ‘A’ level subjects – physics and biology. In radiology, we learn about the technical aspects of the machines, such as how an X-rayed image is formed, which is related to physics. We also study the human anatomy, which is related to biology.

However, I actually never knew there was such a course until I attended an open house at Nanyang Polytechnic, where students could apply for the 3+1 Health Science Scholarship - a fast-track scholarship programme. This meant that I could get my degree in four years, which is similar to the amount of time I would have spent if I went to a local university to pursue the chemistry degree that I was initially offered.

How’s work been so far?
Azhar: When I first started work, I was under the direct supervision of the senior radiographers. I’m grateful that my seniors provided me with a lot of guidance and that my team mates actively look out for one another. For instance, if I made a mistake, they would get correct me instantly so that I can learn and grow in my job. All in all, the working culture here is great. Everyone is friendly and close-knit, like a family.

Do you feel the pressure to perform being a scholar?
Azhar: Definitely! The expectations of my colleagues were heightened when they found out I was joining them. They expected me to be more academically talented than the other graduates and wanted me to be more independent.

What do you do on a typical work day?
Azhar: I take X-rays for patients on a daily basis. The type of X-ray procedure differs depending on the department I’m posted to for the day because there are different patient types in the different locations within the hospital. Let’s say, if I’m assigned to the Acute and Emergency Care (A&E) Department, I will deal mostly with cases involving accident victims and coma cases. On other days, I may be helping out in the operating theatres, dealing with walk-in patients, or providing portable X-ray services in the inpatient wards.

What do you find most rewarding and challenging about your job?
Azhar: The most rewarding part of my job is that I get to be part of the patients’ diagnoses process. I also enjoy interacting with the patients, because each patient is different. The challenging part is to strike a balance between patient care and image quality. We have to take certain X-ray images in certain ways, while not compromising patient care and safety. For example, if a patient is unable to turn in a particular way, we have to improvise so that we can position him or her in a suitable manner to attain the desired X-ray view. In these cases, ‘textbook’ techniques may not work well.

What can you do with your experience as a radiographer if you were to opt for a career change in the future?
Azhar: I could be an application specialist – or ap spec as they call it. While the radiographer is the one using the machines, the ap spec is the one selling the machines. Companies selling such medical equipments usually look for former radiographers to fill the position because of their familiarity with the machines’ operations. The difference between an ap spec and a sales personnel, however, is that the former is also required to conduct training to medical professionals. They also get to travel regionally and meet more people since the two big players in the medical equipment industry are regional companies.

What do you hope to achieve in five years?
Azhar: I hope to get a Master’s degree in radiography. At the Masters level, we’ll gain more specialised knowledge in more advanced fields like ultrasound, computer tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and so on. Hopefully, I can apply for an education sponsorship with Alexandra Health.

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