What is a diagnostic radiographer?

Diagnostic Radiographer

Diagnostic radiographers are Allied Health Professionals (AHPs). Whether you're a patient wanting to know more about who you're seeing, or you're interested in a career as a diagnostic radiographer, we've got what you'll need to know. 

What is a diagnostic radiographer and what patients do they see?

Diagnostic radiographers use the latest technology to look inside the body in different ways to diagnose illnesses and injuries. They use a range of imaging technology and techniques to work out what disease or condition is causing a patient’s illness, including X-rays, Ultrasound, CT-Scanners, MRS Scanners, fluoroscopy (the study of moving body structures e.g. the digestive system.

Diagnostic radiographers also use nuclear medicine, which uses radioactive isotopes to diagnose and treat patients. It records the radiation emitted from within the body to show how the body is functioning. They also operate mammography, which is low energy x-rays which are used to take an image of a patient’s breasts. Radiographers may work in all these areas, and continued learning during their career gives them the opportunity to specialise in a particular area if they choose to.

What’s a typical day for a diagnostic radiographer?

“Caring for patients is at the heart of what I do and every day I help people who are ill or injured. Good communication skills and a compassionate approach are essential qualities for every radiographer and I must be able to work and communicate with people of all ages and backgrounds".

“When training to become a radiographer I learned a lot about anatomy, technology, disease and injuries. A typical day for me will depend on which part of the hospital I’m working in. For example, I could be working in Imaging or X-ray, which provides services 24/7 to all areas of the hospital, such as the emergency department and theatres".

“My varied work means I could be x-raying broken bones in the emergency department or providing x-rays for the surgeon repairing them in theatre. I also provide imaging for key-hole surgery and therapeutic procedures, such as unblocking blood vessels. In addition, I take mobile x-ray equipment to wards and departments when patients are too poorly to be moved.”

Career paths for a diagnostic radiographer

To practice as a radiographer you need to successfully complete an approved degree in diagnostic radiography. Degree courses take three years on a full time basis. There are also postgraduate programmes usually taking up to two years.

Radiography degrees courses cover anatomy, physiology and physics as well sociology, management, ethics and the practice and science of imaging. They all involve a lot of practical work with patients in an imaging department.

Each university sets its own entry requirements, so it’s important to check carefully.  It is essential to have accessed some direct work experience in a clinical department before university interview. If you have a relevant first degree, you can apply for an accelerated programme in diagnostic radiography. These courses are usually between 21 months and two years long. Visit one of the following links for more information:

Why I became a diagnostic radiographer

“I became a diagnostic radiographer because I loved studying science at school and radiography gives me a chance to use my biology to understand the images, care for people who need help, and the opportunity to use state of the art equipment. The images we produce make a difference to the lives of the people we meet.  We meet lots of interesting people from all walks of life and different communities". 

“The technology we use is changing every day, once you qualify you will find the areas that interest you most and you can specialise and do further qualifications if you want to. With the changes in equipment and technologies a career in radiography will be interesting and very different the day you retire from the day you qualified.”