Radiology is a very exciting and innovative field of medicine. Radiologists have such an important role in the investigation of a patient’s condition and the field is becoming increasingly popular. In this article, we discuss what is great about radiology, how you can apply and how to put in a competitive application.
Now more than ever, patients almost always undergo some sort of imaging investigation, and this imaging is integral to shaping the decisions that clinicians make around diagnosis and management. Therefore, the importance of Radiology as a specialty cannot be underestimated. When undertaking a Radiology placement as a final year medical student, I was fascinated by the work carried out by the consultants. Their level of knowledge and understanding of anatomy, physiology and pathology was so detailed, and they had to apply this knowledge to help answer important clinical questions.
Radiologists don’t just look for pathology – they have to work out the clinical significance of the finding and relay that to the clinician in a way that allows them to understand what next steps they need to take. If you want to have that kind of role in shaping patient care, then Radiology is for you.
As simple as it sounds, another reason I like Radiology is because it is just so cool. Many a patient has expressed how interesting it is to be able to see “inside” a person, and I can’t help but agree. In real-time, I can look at someone’s aorta, or watch them swallow contrast and see it go through the oesophagus into the stomach. You learn about the physics of medical imaging which can be very tough but also very interesting (I now actually understand the difference between T1 and T2-weighted MRI imaging – that was a tough physics lesson!) I am constantly being pulled away by colleagues to look at an interesting finding CT or MRI, and no two days in work are ever the same.
This is a specialty in which doctors have a notoriously good work-life balance, although this is beginning to change for consultants dealing with an ever-increasing workload. Every consultant and trainee I met on my taster week told me how happy they were and how they would highly recommend Radiology, and nationally it is one of the highest-ranking specialties for clinician satisfaction.
What is the training programme like?
Radiology is understandably competitive to get into. Trainees undergo a five-year run through programme and will often start with no nights or on-call shifts, and will always be heavily supervised, allowing plenty of time to focus on learning.
Clinical Radiology has a 5-year run-through training programme (ST1-5), however, you may choose to specialise in interventional radiology in which case there is an ST6 year. There is no application process for ST3 post as this is a run-through programme. You can find out more about the training pathway for clinical radiology here.
Image from here
Life as a Radiologist
Most patients will make contact with the radiology department when seeking help for a health issue, so contrary to popular opinion, Radiology trainees end up with quite a lot of patient contact. I currently have two ultrasound clinics, one breast clinic and one fluoroscopy list per week. This means I have contact with patients every day, and instead of standing behind a consultant writing notes, running off to write discharge summaries or sending off referrals, I get to spend one-on-one time with patients. I really love being in the breast unit because I get to be part of a fantastic team who are not just performing important investigations, but also supporting patients as they go through a daunting and emotional process. It also means I get to be involved with a variety of image reporting, ultrasound and biopsy.
The application process
The MSRA test is split into 2 sections:
Early January – Sit the MSRA
Early February – Invitation to interview
Your portfolio should be ready at this point and you should have ideally already started preparing for the interview. Once you receive your invitation it is time to ramp up the interview prep.
Early February – Interview
Your interview will be in Stuart house, not in the RCR building (people make this mistake every year!)
You will have three stations at the interview:
A few days post-interview – Submission of job preferences
Early March – Offers!
How to build your portfolio
Building a Radiology portfolio is not too challenging but it is worth bearing in mind there are a few things that you will only score on if you have completed them within a year before your interview (normally held in February). It is really important to speak to ST1s because the criteria can change every year and so they will be able to give you the most recent advice on what you need for your portfolio. You should also read the RCR’s website for information on what they are looking for as the point scoring system is based on this (see below).
You will likely need to show evidence of:
- Research into a career in Imaging through a taster week (minimum)
- Undergraduate and postgraduate degrees and qualifications
- Clinical Governance, audit and quality improvement
- This is important. For full marks, you must have presented two quality improvement or closed-loop audits at national conferences for two points within the last year.
- Teaching and training experience
- For top marks, you either should have a Pgcert, attended a course such as Teach the Teacher, or be involved in a national teaching programme such as ATSP
- Research activity and Publications
- First-author publication in a peer-reviewed journal will get you two points for this.
- Evidence of discretionary effort/ achievement
- This is about achievements outside medicine. Do you play an instrument? Sports? Have you won a competition? Been involved in a big charity project? Put it in your portfolio.
When I applied there were no points for leadership roles or prizes, however, I put these in my portfolio and showed them off at the interview. Be aware that the assessment can change yearly, so while I don’t think you should overfill your portfolio, I do believe it is important to prepare to show off important achievements don’t expect to come up.
- The SRT has a popular Youtube video (recommended by the RCR) on how to get into Radiology, as well as many other interesting resources and conferences.
- Radiology cafe provides a fantastic in-depth guide for Radiology applicants
- For MSRA information here is a useful link
- The Radiology Person Specification is a vital read
- The RCR has more information about the Radiology application process
By Dr Lara Jehanli BMBS, The SRT Secretary
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