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Diagnostic Radiographers: Acting as the Doctor’s Bionic Eyes

Amanda in the Operating Theatre wearing lead protection, standing with specialised X-ray equipment. Photo: This photo was taken for publication purposes.

As Amanda Er examined the patient's chest x-ray in the high-dependency ward at Changi General Hospital (CGH), she could not help but feel uneasy.

"Something is not right – there seems to be some trauma in the oesophageal area. I can't afford to ignore this as it would be life-threatening if the oesophagus is ruptured," she thought.

Although the patient was in a critical condition, Amanda decided to perform a neck x-ray after getting the green light from the doctor-in-charge. It proved to be the right call. As it turned out, the patient had an injured oesophagus. And if left undetected, the patient would have died.

"This particular incident still stands out to this day. It highlights the huge responsibility I have and is a reflection of how a radiographer can change their patients' lives."

Accompanying Patients Every Step of the Way

Amanda interacting with a patient model whilst performing an x-ray examination.
Photo: This photo was taken for publication purposes.

Diagnostic radiographers play an important role in helping doctors investigate what is unseen to the 'naked eye'. They are trained to operate sophisticated equipment for imaging the human body to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. By helping doctors 'look' inside a patient, diagnostic radiographers are literally the doctor's bionic eyes.

"As a diagnostic radiographer, it is important that I provide top-quality x-ray images for doctors. The visual information gives doctors important clues that help them investigate or manage the patient's condition. The responsibility is huge. It requires one to be detailed, meticulous and armed with good problem-solving skills."

Every week, Amanda is rotated to various care settings that require a radiographer to be on-site e.g. at the emergency department (ED), operating theatre (OT), wards or outpatient clinics.

Due to the multi-faceted needs of each care setting, Amanda often has to be nimble and adaptable in communicating with the different care teams and the patients.

"Having been a diagnostic radiographer at CGH since 2019, I have had the privilege of encountering various patients in their times of need. Depending on their profile, I learnt to be very concise when communicating with my patients so that they are properly positioned as this affects the diagnostic quality of the x-ray image."

Highlighting an example in the ED, she shared how she would need to balance between taking accurate x-rays of trauma patients in critical condition while being mindful of their pain levels.

On days when Amanda is stationed in the OT, she helps surgeons with intra-operative x-rays for patients with urology, orthopaedic and gastrointestinal conditions, to name a few.

Sometimes, Amanda may be called to the wards or outpatient clinics to take x-rays for patients during their check-ups to ensure that they are progressing well in their recovery.

But, how did Amanda realise that being a diagnostic radiographer was the career for her?

Amanda, a hobbyist photographer, during a photoshoot

"It was a love for photography coupled with the heart to serve the underprivileged that led me to become a radiographer."

"Where I am now, I get to have the best of both worlds. Basically, I've gone from taking pictures outside the human body, to inside it!" she shared.

Combining a Passion for Photography with a Selfless Nature

After graduating from Temasek Polytechnic with a diploma in Biomedical Engineering, she came across the Healthcare Merit Award (HMA) by MOH Holdings (MOHH). Having previously learnt about radiography during her diploma studies, she applied for the scholarship and was awarded after a successful interview.

As part of her scholarship perks, Amanda also had the privilege of interning as a radiography assistant at CGH in the ED before she went for her studies. It was her first foray into a real-world healthcare environment and things got interesting quickly.

"I remember assisting the radiographer to take various x-ray images for a road traffic accident victim with severe injuries. The patient's blood-covered face was unrecognisable when I saw him. At the ED where every decision has an impact on life and death, I know the x-ray images will help the care team to decide the best course of treatment for the patient. It was an eye-opening experience for me."

After her internship, Amanda would head overseas to pursue a bachelor's degree in Radiography and Medical Imaging at Australia's Monash University Clayton campus. "The degree programme at Monash encourages students to continually apply theoretical knowledge in a practical setting."

"For example, after learning about the upper and lower limbs of the human anatomy, I was able to apply it during subsequent clinical placements. Being assessed on my x-ray positioning skills of those body regions provided me with an idea of how I was faring in my skillsets. The well-rounded exposure ensured that I get a good mix of practical training and theory-based learning."

Amanda with her Jackomos Hall residents at a formal event

Besides studies and practical training, Amanda participated in various extracurricular activities during her time at Monash. One of these was her work as a Residential Advisor with Monash Residential Services (MRS) and the Jackomos Hall Residential Support Team (RST). There, Amanda helped to ease student residents into their campus environment. She also had to ensure their pastoral well-being.

Caring for Singapore, a Scan at a Time

Upon graduation, Amanda returned to Singapore and began serving her 6-year bond at CGH. Besides her clinical responsibilities, she has also taken up additional roles that would enhance her experience as a diagnostic radiographer.

Within CGH, Amanda is sometimes tasked to train new staff at the ED and wards. As a clinical educator who nurtures the next generation of radiographers, she is also involved in teaching roles at the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT), Parkway College - the University of Hertfordshire.

At the same time, Amanda is also using her practical experience to train a new generation of diagnostic radiographers at her alma mater – Monash University. Here, she lectures offshore students on the subject "Radiographic Science and Practice". 

Additionally, Amanda is also the co-lead to further improve research literacy and interest within the department. She is one of the key people to evaluate manuscripts from fellow radiographers, providing valuable suggestions before they are submitted to a journal for review and publication.

Her research interest has also culminated in being a Senior Editor with, a radiology site where she contributes and moderates medical articles available to over 40 million healthcare professionals worldwide.

Amanda also intends to widen her professional capabilities specifically in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – a technique that is typically used to scan a patient's organs, muscles or tissues.

Come July 2023, she will begin her practical training in MRI which would allow her to have clinical experience in an additional imaging modality.

When asked why she chose to further her training in MRI, Amanda shared that it is one of the imaging examinations that would allow her the extended time to interact with patients.

She added, "I enjoy interacting with my patients. Getting to know my patients from the stories they share allows me to connect with them on a deeper level. I also feel a sense of accomplishment when I am able to alleviate a patient's doubts and fear as they undergo a scan with me."

Diagnostic radiographers like Amanda play a vital role in Singapore's healthcare system. The career is a rewarding one that appeals to those looking to make a change in people's lives.

If you are interested in pursuing a profession in radiography, Amanda has this to say, "If you're someone who finds joy in helping others, do write into a hospital for a job shadowing opportunity."

"That will allow you to find out if being a radiographer would be the right career path for you! Always keep an open mind and enjoy the learning process. The biggest reward will come from knowing you played a part in the patients' recovery."

Want to take up diagnostic radiography like Amanda?

MOH Holdings (MOHH) is currently offering scholarships to nurture the next generation of nursing, pharmacy and allied health professionals. These scholarships are in partnership with public healthcare institutions and allow you to study in local and overseas universities. For more details on the health science disciplines offered, check out this page.