Careers focus: James Batty, radiographer
To celebrate World Radiography Day, we’re sharing this article from Big Picture: Careers from biology, which came out earlier this year. It features James Batty, who started his working life in the publishing and music industries before retraining as a radiographer. He tells Penny Bailey what working in a radiography department entails and why he loves his new career.
What do you do?
I take pictures of the insides of people with very large, very high-tech machines.
What did you study at school and university?
I did A levels in English literature, chemistry and biology. I did my first degree in English literature and drama at Middlesex University, then I worked in publishing and in the music industry. When I was 28, I decided to return to science. I’d never really pictured myself working in an office – I wanted a job dealing with people and I wanted to work for a non-profit organisation.
How did you become a radiographer?
I had several X-rays when I was a kid, so I knew that these people sat in dark rooms and took pictures of broken bones. I did a degree in radiography at Southbank University, then I did an internship here at University College Hospital, London. I looked at that as being a week-long job interview, so when I interviewed for the job I’d already proven myself.
What does a typical day entail?
There’s no such thing. I could be working on a CT [computed tomography] scanner or with plain film X-rays. I could be dealing with patients from the ward or people coming into A&E with injuries, or I could be in theatre, scanning people’s bones so the surgeons know they’re putting plates or pins in the right place.
What are the most challenging and satisfying things about your job?
I don’t think I’ll ever stop feeling upset when I meet a patient in their early teens who has an incurable disease. And it’s frontline healthcare, so you deal with some people who can be difficult or aggressive. This isn’t a cosy office job – you’re in the thick of it. That’s also something I love about it. And I love the unpredictability – you never know what your day’s going to be like, or who you’ll meet. It’s never boring.
What prospects for progression are there?
You can specialise in MRI [magnetic resonance imaging] or ultrasound, research or management. I’m specialising in reporting, which means examining X-rays for signs of disease or trauma and then writing reports about what I see for clinicians of other specialties to use when they plan treatment for a patient.
This is a brilliant job if you’re a people person. Radiography isn’t too difficult a course to do, the pay is good, and you can go all over the world with it. It will take me a year and a half studying part-time to learn how to report on chest and abdomen X-rays, and then I’ll do another two years part-time to learn to how to report on other areas of the body (the axial and appendicular skeleton).
- A levels: English literature, biology and chemistry (1993).
- BA English literature and drama (1993–1996).
- BSc radiography (2004-07).
- Member of the Health Professions Council.
- Member of the Society of Radiographers.
- Office admin and personal assistant, publishing industry (1996-98).
- Distribution co-ordinator, Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG records) (1998-2000).
- Public relations at record labels and PR companies (2000-04).
- Junior radiographer, University College Hospital (2007-09).
- Senior radiographer, University College Hospital (2009-present).
Get some work experience before you invest in a degree in radiography. I spent a week shadowing radiographers at my local hospital, so I knew it was the right choice for me.
This article is part of the online content for Big Picture: Careers from biology. Read about life as an assistant practitioner (radiography) in the PDF of the magazine and find out about the science of medical imaging here.