WHEN Ms Noor Aqilah Abdul Rahim (above), 27, first joined Changi General Hospital (CGH) as a diagnostic radiographer five years ago, she thought she would only be taking general X-rays.
Now, she specialises in computed tomography (CT) scans, one of the many different modalities of the profession.
Diagnostic radiography involves the use of machines to take images of the body at different angles using X-rays, ultrasound waves or magnetic waves.
Medical imaging — in addition to, for example, blood tests — helps doctors to diagnose different diseases and injuries, as well as plan medical, surgical or radiation treatment.
Diagnostic radiographers can choose to specialise in a particular practice, such as CT scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), nuclear medicine or ultrasound.
Ms Aqilah chose to specialise in CT scans as they are well-suited to quickly examine people who may have internal injuries from car accidents or other types of trauma.
“It calls for quick thinking and needs me to think on my feet, and I enjoy being on the go,” she says. CT also provides more details compared to general X-rays.
She explains that CT scans differ from X-rays as they take a whole series of X-ray images from different angles and use computer processing to create cross-sectional images of the body, soft tissue, bones and blood vessels.
Ready for the future
Ms Aqilah has always wanted to work in the healthcare sector so that she could give back to the community and interact with people.
After her A levels in 2008, she obtained the Health Science and Nursing Scholarship (now known as Healthcare Merit Award) awarded by Singapore Health Services (SingHealth).
She went on to attain a Diploma in Diagnostic Radiography at Nanyang Polytechnic in 2011.
This was followed by a Bachelor of Medical Radiation Science in Diagnostic Radiography at the University of Newcastle, Australia, in 2012.
Ms Aqilah says she picked radiography among other disciplines with her career in mind.
“First, I like a job that keeps me on the move. Second, looking at radiographic images of how our organs work gives me a whole new perspective to the human body,” she explains.
The scholarship covered the tuition fees of her polytechnic and university studies, accommodation in Australia throughout her one-year course and return air tickets. It also provided a warm clothing allowance.
In addition, she received a monthly allowance over the span of her local and overseas education.
Besides defraying the costs of her education, the scholarship gave her exposure to overseas healthcare settings and practices through clinical placements in Hong Kong, and Sydney, Australia, over the course of her studies.
She completed her four-year bond with CGH last year.
Striking a balance
One of Ms Aqilah’s challenges is striking a balance between interacting with patients and managing heavy workload.
She says diagnostic radiographers often see nearly 100 new patients every day, but spend as little as two minutes to do a chest X-ray, during which they are expected to build a relationship of trust with their patients. But she does not work in silos.
Depending on where she is posted — Accident and Emergency (A&E) department, wards or operating theatre — she could be working with a multidisciplinary team comprising nurses, doctors and respiratory therapists.
She enjoys working at different locations every week, handling a variety of cases daily and operating the latest medical equipment.
“The most rewarding part of my job is being able to give back to the community while performing my duty as the first line of imaging — namely, X-rays and CT scans — to help doctors speed up the diagnosis of first-time A&E patients,” she says.