By a Very Cool Radiologist
Bats! Vampires! These are some of the words that are occasionally used to describe us when there is a bit of a banter occurring between colleagues. We prefer working away from all others, in offices or cubicles in some corner of the hospital, under dim lights with only the brightness of the monitor illuminating our surroundings and shining a light on our faces. We talk a lot while we sit and stare at the computer screen but it is not the patient or the colleague next to us that we talk to. We have the power to gaze deep inside you telling you what is right and what is not so right. By now you must have realised my profession. Yes, I am indeed a radiologist!
I didn’t start off wanting to become a radiologist to be honest. During my medical school days and even when I started my initial post graduate training post, I was very keen to be a surgeon. I felt I had the clinical skills as well as the manual dexterity and my seniors in surgery were appreciative of both, as well as my enthusiasm. The one thing that was quite obvious even those initial years of foundation training were the trips to the radiology department on a daily basis with a handful of requests for chest X rays, ultrasound scans and CT followed by a discussion why each imaging request was appropriate or not justified. With each trip, it was becoming clear that while clinical history and examination are absolutely essential to the initial management of patient, radiology has an equally important role as an aid to the clinician. The surgeons wanted a CT scan to confirm suspected perforation, identify the site and any potential cause before taking the patient to theatre. An ankle x ray was important to decide whether the patient would require a cast and lengthy non-weight bearing or just simple conservative management. The list was endless.
The surgeon inside me and the budding radiologist trying to usurp his place led me to apply for both when I finished my foundation training. It was radiology that offered me the post first and I took it without hesitation.
I trained in radiology for 7 years (including fellowships) and I have been a consultant for more than 5 years now. I can happily say that I do not have any regrets in choosing radiology over surgery. So, what is that I like about radiology? First of all, as a consultant I find it more family friendly speciality (unless you are an interventionalist radiologist!). While the training, which is a minimum of 5 years, can be quite gruelling, life as a consultant is better. With the advancement of technology, even the smaller hospitals are keen to provide reporting facilities for radiologists at home which is fantastic. More and more hospitals are quite keen for radiologists to report from home where possible as it also results in increased productivity.
Radiology as a speciality is also quite diverse and there are many different subspecialties to explore. I am a musculoskeletal radiology specialist, with most of my work dedicated to joint, spine and soft tissue problems. And yet to keep things interesting, I do some general radiology including acute on call work where I report scans from emergency settings. And while there is a popular and incorrect assumption that we never want to see patients, the reality is far from different. As a musculoskeletal interventional radiologist, I regularly perform procedures which requires meeting and treating patients.
So, if you are asking me whether radiology is recommended…the answer is absolutely. You will be central to patient management, working hand in hand with non-radiology clinical colleagues. In future, artificial intelligence in all likelihood will be a part of your armoury in terms of reporting and you will have a better work life balance compared to other specialities.