Diagnostic Imaging Webinar
Be exposed to the world of Medical Sonography, Echocardiography and Medical Imaging. Find out how our Diagnostic Imaging courses are delivered in ways that enhance your employment outcomes, and hear about how you will experience the latest in learning technology and learn through simulations and extensive work-integrated learning opportunities. This is a recording from the Diagnostic Imaging Webinar that was featured at CQUni Virtual Open Day 2021.
Hello everyone, my name is Morgan Somerville and I'm here today to chat with you about our unique diagnostic imaging courses. I'm pleased to be joined by three of my colleagues from the School of Health, Medical and Applied Sciences: Caroline Falconi – Head of Course for Medical Imaging, Jane Wardle – Head of Course for Medical Sonography and Paula Boucaut - Head of Course for Echocardiography.
Please feel free to ask questions throughout the webinar - we have a team here to answer your questions, and once the webinar’s over, you're also welcome to head over to our diagnostic imaging booths for further resources, and of course to chat to the team.
Before we get started, I'd like to acknowledge the country. I respectfully acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land in which we live, work, and learn. I pay my respects to the First Nations people and their elders past, present and future.
All right, let's get started.
Hi Jane, thanks for coming today. Can you please let us know what sonographers do and tell us about the Bachelor of Medical Sonography and Graduate Diploma of Medical Sonography at CQUni?
Well, medical sonographers use high frequency ultrasound to image the body. So we don't use ionizing radiation. It's a safe modality, I like to call it, and due to the physics which I won’t bore you with today, we can look at any part of the body that isn't hiding behind bone or a gas field structure, so lungs or bowel and things like that.
So I think a lot of people would understand the role of a sonographer in the obstetric setting, so scanning babies. That's what makes up a fairly big part of our role, but we also have to look at things like blood vessels, tendons and ligaments, and things like that - so what we call musculoskeletal ultrasound. We have a look at anything between the ribs and the hips, so all those soft structures like the liver and the kidneys, and bladder, the uterus and the prostate and things like that. And all muscles are a part of our musculoskeletal type ultrasound. So it's actually quite a broad field and I think not a lot of people understand what sonographers do outside of the babies, but there is a lot more to ultrasound than babies.
Sonographers can specialise in certain areas, so we do have specialist vascular sonographers, so they’re the blood vessels, and we have specialists obstetrics sonographers, so some sonographers will only work in a site that looks at babies.
But graduate sonographers need to come out with a general ultrasound qualification, so they'll be able to do a broad range of scans. And what normally happens, after you've been working a few years doing lots of different types of ultrasound, you might find that you do really like that obstetric setting, or you really do like looking at blood vessels. So people will specialise in that particular area, but that becomes more of a work training rather than a specialisation within our program.
So our program is four years long. You end with a Graduate Diploma in Medical Ultrasound, which then allows you to become registered as a medical sonographer.
So in our first year, it's mainly delivered online and so you do a fairly broad range of subjects like physics and anatomy and pathology. Anatomy and pathology are very important parts of being a sonographer, so there's a lot of emphasis that on that on the first year, so that you get a really good background and a very good base knowledge of that type of things.
When you come into second year, you come into our scanning labs and you do spend a lot of time scanning in our simulation labs. You'll already have a lot of that anatomy and pathology knowledge.
In the first year you will have a couple of residential schools, so you do get to come in and have a scan with the ultrasound equipment, but it's really in second and third year that you spend a lot of time with us on campus scanning. While you're doing that on campus, you're also doing more academic subjects around specialised abdominal ultrasound, specialised obstetric ultrasound, vascular ultrasound, MSK ultrasound. So you're learning a lot of stuff while at the same time you're learning this very important psycho motor skills, so the actual skill of being able to use your ultrasound machine and scan the things that you need to scan.
And then after you've done a whole year of labs, you go out to your first clinical placement in second year, and third year you come back for more labs and then halfway through third year you go out on to clinical placement, and so the last 18 months almost of the program is actually working full time in a medical imaging department in ultrasound, but also studying at the same time, so you actually have more academic subjects to study, so it's quite a balance, a tight balance. It's really hard work – I'm not going to sugarcoat it – but it's absolutely well worth it, and what you'll find is that when you leave your comfort zone, you achieve something really exciting, and that's what I think sonography will give you as well.
Hopefully that covered it all.
Wonderful, that's great. Thanks so much, Jane.
Okay Paula, can you please share what echocardiography is and tell us about the Bachelor of Echocardiography and Cardiac Physiology and Graduate Diploma of Echocardiography course at CQUni?
Absolutely, thanks Morgan.
Listen, echocardiographers are not too dissimilar to sonographers, other than we specialise in the application of ultrasound just to look at the heart. Now, we might just look on one single organ, but that organ is incredibly complex. It's a very small muscular pump and it's susceptible to a variety of disease states which we can both diagnose and monitor using echo.
So, our students are trained to be highly specialised diagnostic clinicians, if you like. We prepare our students with our core structure. It's a four year program and the course actually comprises of a Bachelor Degree that's bolted to a Postgraduate Diploma and the students have to enrol and complete both of these components together and consecutively. Now, that requires students to be enrolled in full time capacity and the program takes four years to complete.
Now, our course is unique because it's the only undergrad program of its kind to enable students to leave straight from a high school background or even from a mature age entry without prior medical experience to learn and train to be an echocardiographer.
Now, in addition to that, when our students actually complete the course upon graduation, you're actually eligible for registration as an accredited echocardiographer with the National Association, which is ASAR. ASAR stands for the Australian Sonography Accreditation Registry. So this ensures that our students coming through our program are workplace ready, and in fact many of our students actually receive employment offers during the course of their study.
Now the course isn't just theory, you will learn about the physics behind ultrasound, you'll learn some ethics, you'll learn anatomy and theory behind the pathologies that we're actually studying to assess in clinical practice.
But in addition to that, students are actually going to be exposed to the art of echocardiography in simulation labs on campus. Now these labs are really special because they replicate the clinical environment and it's within these lab spaces that we teach our students in a very safe environment and scaffold their skill sets from not knowing what an ultrasound machine is, right through to being confident to perform a normal echocardiogram. And we do this both with our highly qualified staff supporting the delivery, and also members of industry who are experts in the field come in and join us on campus to provide that training experience.
Now, of course, as Jane’s alluded to as well, our students also need clinical experience to become qualified. So as part of the program you have to complete just over 2000 hours of clinical placement. Now, that placement commences in blocks in year two, and runs right through to year four with a final block being completed in term two of year four. Now, these placements are unique in that the university sources them for the students. So we do tell students when they enrol in our program, that you've got to prepare both personally and financially for travel, because some of the clinical placements may be in the metro area near to where a student resides, but you might also have to travel somewhere interstate or not local to home.
That could be a little bit daunting sometimes as a student, but it also provides you with a really unique opportunity to see a variety of different places of employ to find the environment that suits you, and that inspires you to want to remain in the workforce when you graduate long term.
Our students are passionate, we're passionate to support them, and we're really excited by this program, which is, as I said, the first of its kind in Australia.
Wonderful, thanks so much for that Paula, that's great.
Okay Caroline, now to you. Can you please let us know what medical imaging is and what radiographers do? And can you tell us about the Bachelor of Medical Imaging at CQUni?
Medical imaging is actually a broad term and is often interchangeable with diagnostic imaging within our profession. However, in Australia, most of the undergraduate courses for entry into the field of diagnostic radiography have been called medical imaging or medical radiation sciences, so the term medical imaging as the degree, is actually a broader term, and really this degree is focused on a pathway for our graduates to become diagnostic radiographers.
So a radiographer is a person who uses X-rays to produce images of the body for the purpose of achieving a diagnosis. So the radiographer’s role is to use the radiation most efficiently in terms of using the least amount of radiation in creative means to produce the images that will best demonstrate the structures that are needed to answer the clinical questions.
And our course is four years in length, and it's actually called an accelerated four year degree because students will complete the course in under four years. Students will study all three terms in years one to three, and then finish at the end of term one of year four. So that's why it's a four year degree but in an accelerated mode.
And for its degree, it's very similar in structure in the scaffolding of education to what Jane and Paula have already described. We have a foundation year one where we provide the core knowledge in human anatomy, physiology and the sciences, and an introduction to the profession. Then in year two students come on campus and focus on basic skills of the radiographer in learning how to perform general radiography on the main bones and body structures. Then head out to clinical placement, come back for year three and do more advanced education, then head out for the remainder of year three to clinical placement and all of year four to complete the required duration of experience.
And this course is unique in that CQUniversity is the only one with a fully functional computed tomography or CAT scanner or CT scanner on campus specifically for student learning. So that positions our students to have significant hands on as well as the theory knowledge so that our students will go out to clinical placement as of year three, being able to perform both general radiography and CT scanning, and so by entry to practice in year four, students are able to operate independently in both of those areas.
Great, thanks for that Caroline.
Alrighty, we have a lot of interest in knowing more about careers in these fields, so Jane, can you let us know what a typical work day looks like for a sonographer?
So a sonographer can work in a variety of different environments. So the most common are a private practice, so the small suburban private practices that you might see not far from where you live, all the way through to a large tertiary hospital in the big metropolitan cities. Or a small little public hospital in, you know, rural Australia as well. So those two different environments do have different day-to-day type schedules.
So if you're working in the smaller private practices you might have, you might walk in at 8:30 in the morning and have your day planned out for the rest of the day, so you know when your patients are walking in, when you've got half an hour per patient, you've got a lunch break scheduled in. And your patients are able to walk in, explain what is been going on with them, why they're there, give you perhaps a few more symptoms and things like that.
Whereas if you work in a big public hospital, it tends to be not quite as scheduled, so you may not know exactly what's coming in. You'll have a bit of a rough idea, but the nature of hospitals is emergency, so you might have to fit in a few extra patients and things like that, so it's a little bit more… You're not quite sure what's going to come through the door next I guess with a public hospital, whether that's a big metropolitan hospital or a rural environment.
So you'll probably notice the difference in the patients as well between the private and the public is that the private, the patient will walk in and be able to explain to you what's happened, whereas in the public hospital, you know, you might have had to wheel your patient in on a trolley and they're connected to all the machines that go “BING”, and they can't talk to you, and they can't hold their breath, and so the work itself is a little bit more technical, I guess, and you need to change the way you do things perhaps a little bit more in the public hospital, because you don't get that perfect picture that you might be able to get with a patient who can talk to you and hold their breath and that type of thing.
So I guess in the public hospital you spend a little bit more time with patients than you would in a private hospital, in a private department. And what we find is that sonographers generally prefer one environment or the other. I probably prefer that public environment. I like to be kept on my toes I guess, and I really like that emergency work as well. But at the same time, I really do appreciate that private environment where you can actually probably get a little bit more information out of your patients and have a bit more of a steady day, if that makes sense.
Great, thank you.
Okay, Paula, can you please tell us a bit about the day in the life of an echocardiographer?
The day in the life of an echocardiographer – it can be quite varied and not dissimilar to what Jane has mentioned. It largely depends on what type of clinic or setting that you work in, so echocardiographer's can work in private or hospital or public practices. We can work in adult or paediatric clinics.
Now, in private practices your day does tend to be a little bit more reasonably structured. You are provided with perhaps a list of appointments that you'll work through during the course of your shift, and you might see patients that present for serial evaluation and management of everything from perhaps systemic hypertension through to a stenotic or a leaky heart valve, heart failure or coronary artery disease. You might also perform variations of a normal echo, which include things like a stress or dobutamine echo, contrast echoes or bubble studies, and these little tests are just variants on a normal echo, they're performed with other members of the diagnostic team in the room, from doctors to nurses or technicians, and they involve pharmaceutical agents being given to the patients at the same time as you’re imaging them.
So of course, all of that can also be done in the hospital environment, but here it's quite a high paced and dynamic environment, and things can change rapidly. You can be called to the emergency department, the intensive care ward or to the bedside of a patient that is very sick, sometimes ventilated or even isolated due to infectious disease. And it's in this environment that we can have a real impact immediately on the treatment of the patient, because the ability of us as diagnostic clinicians to acquire and store the images which represent the anomaly that we're seeing really impacts the patient and helps guide their treatment with the doctor. We can see a whole variety of funky things such as ionic dissections or holes in the heart, masses on heart valves, or clots within cardiac chambers, or patients that present with severe heart attacks. So it can be very dynamic and a very challenging environment and at times quite emotional as well.
Of course, separate to this, we might also work in a paediatric clinic where we scan children, and here we might see entire families come in with their child. The child might have a heart that's malformed, they might have unusual vessel connections to the heart or holes in the heart or defects in the valves. And here we assess the heart perhaps for surgical interventions, and it can again be quite a challenging, emotional and dynamic work environment.
It's probably these things that help drive the decision on whether our graduates like to work in those different clinics because each environment will appeal to different types of people, and as Jane said, that's also one of the attractions because the employment opportunities for our students are quite varied and there's a number of different clinics that you could choose to work from.
Okay, Caroline, can you please tell us what a day in the life of a diagnostic radiographer looks like?
I'd say I'm echoing what both Paula and Jane have said in that there is a huge variation and much depends on the place of employment and that because radiographers can be in our patient clinics where all the patients are essentially able to come in and move on their own, they're independent, they're able to converse, they don't need a lot of assistance, so that radiography is relatively straightforward and is mostly daytime work.
The opposite end of the spectrum is working in a hospital environment with an emergency department intensive care and the radiographer’s role becomes very quite varied in terms of one day you may be working in emergency or up on the wards, and another day you're working strictly in the department maybe doing very high-tech examinations that involve a big diagnostic team as in fluoroscopy, angiography area, interventional procedures maybe operating and performing CT scans on basic patients or very complex patients. People have been flown in by air ambulance and things are very time critical.
So there's a huge range of environments that a radiographer might find themselves in not only from day to day, but from hour to hour. So the nature of the job is, there's always something different walking through the door and much of what we do is not by appointment, so you don't really know what's going to happen during the day other than you're going to have variety.
And I would say radiography is very much what we call a team sport. There are a few jobs where radiographers are the sole person in the diagnostic imaging team, but for the most part, radiographers work with other people in the diagnostic team and in the healthcare environment. So it's caring for the patient that you have, but also interacting with the team to produce the best outcome for that patient.
Perfect, thanks very much for sharing Caroline.
Okay, so to anyone that's watching that's interested in working in the medical imaging field, Jane, can you please let us know what the best part about being a sonographer is?
Sure - this is my favorite part to talk about. I'm going to steal Caroline’s team sport. I love that! I normally say multidisciplinary team, but that's boring. I'm going to use team sport from now on.
I think that's what I enjoy the most. Being a sonographer, working in a medical imaging department, you get to work with admin staff, wards peoples, doctors, anywhere from the GP that referred, the doctor. You may never meet them, but you do have a relationship with them because they’ll let you know about the patient, you may need to talk to that doctor again at some point. All the way through to very specialist doctors. So these doctors have worked for years and years to get where they are and they're very knowledgeable in that area, and so, there's a fair bit of pressure when you're working with those doctors, and again they keep you on your toes. And being a part of that team is something that I really enjoy.
I think I'm people-present and I definitely need to work with people. And to have that part, like my niche, and my part of that patient’s journey is obviously very important to me, and I like the way that that fits into the patient’s journey all the way from the doctor that they've seen originally, all the way through to walking into the X-ray department, talking to the admin team, and then coming to us, and then maybe going out again. So yeah, collaboration is definitely an enjoyable part of being a sonographer.
I really enjoy the fact that, and I know that lifelong learning is a real buzzword at the moment, but it's absolutely essential for sonographers, echocardiographers and radiographers. You will never know everything about this. It might feel like it at the end of the four years after you've done this program, but you'll never know everything, and I really, I like that challenge as well.
And the other thing that sonography, that I like about it as well, is that it gives you a broad range of work environments, and also the opportunity to travel. So when I was younger, and footloose, and fancy free, I got to travel around Australia and overseas working as a sonographer. And then as my life became a little bit more suburban, I guess, I also had that option of working not too far from home in fairly flexible environments as well when I needed it.
So I think sonography is being a very… I feel very lucky to have been a sonographer because it's been a great opportunity for me pretty much from the time that I started to right now.
I think also, as a sonographer, you’re quite… I don't think sonographer, being a sonographer is not particularly a famous profession, and if I go to an environment where I don't know too many people, and I say that I’m a sonographer, I didn’t generally have to explain it. But you know, once you explain what you do, you know, people are quite interested in that, and you know, there's always a few stories to tell people about what you do and how you do it, and you know, the interesting pathologies and everything that we've come across, so yeah, there's always something new, it always keeps you learning and there's always something to talk about.
So yeah, thanks Morgan.
Great, thank you Jane.
Okay Paula, can you please let us know your favorite part about being an echocardiographer?
Jane, how do I follow that wonderful introduction, because all of that is true.
In a nutshell, I think you know, personally, I've worked in this industry for over 20 years and not once have I got bored. This profession just continues to challenge me. The job and our role within industry is exciting and it continues to change. It requires us to be adaptable and to do continuous learning, which is great because I just can't sit still. So this job has given me that opportunity to grow.
I love being part of a team that has to put together a puzzle – all those different bits of diagnostic information that we get – and working together as a team and making a real impact on the treatment of a patient, for me, is really rewarding. And we get to do that over and over and over again, every day, day in and day out.
And the role itself has allowed me, through my career, to move from being a clinician, to perhaps, a more management oriented role, to education, to giving back and working with trainees and students alike as I'm doing now, so for me the role has adapted, and I've been able to continue to work within industry or within this field over such a long period of time, so that's pretty special and unique, I think.
I know, as a student, when you're first starting out, it's probably really exciting too, because this sort of career path - it's highly respected, it's a niche industry, there's great employment opportunities and it's well paid and in demand profession. So for me, it really ticks all the boxes, and I can't say enough nice things about this profession.
Lovely thank you so much Paula.
Okay, Caroline can you please let us know what you love about being a radiographer?
Well, I think that both what Jane and Paula have said ticks a lot of my boxes too.
Radiographers have a slight difference from the other two areas in that many of the times when we're doing radiographic examinations, particularly, general radiography of musculoskeletal structures, your interaction with the patient may be relatively brief, maybe 5 minutes, maybe 10 minutes long. Yet you need to do that detective work to figure out how best to answer the clinical question to find out what actually the issue is. So learning to make a connection with your patient in a really quick period of time, short period of time, build that rapport, and provide not only that technical expertise, but also provide great patient care, and building that connection, making your patient feel safe while they're in your hands and at ease, knowing that they're going to get the best opportunity for furthering their diagnosis in that brief period of time they’re with you.
So sometimes low tech can be a really great experience, as well as the high tech. I love technology. I love the changes in the technology that we've had. I'd say I'm a bit of a techie nerd with respect to radiographic imaging, technology and equipment - that ticks a lot of boxes for me. But all of that is just sort of on the side, relative to the whole purpose of our being there, which is to support our patients’ journey through their diagnostic process. So I think that balance of the people side with the technology has been a big plus for me.
Great, thank you so much.
Well, thank you all for that awesome information on our diagnostic imaging courses, Caroline, Jane and Paula. All sound like really rewarding and fascinating careers.
The Australian Government job outlook also predicts 11,000 job openings for medical imaging professionals by 2023, so there will be fantastic job prospects for all of our CQUniversity graduates.
Thank you for joining our webinar today. If you still have questions about these courses please visit our diagnostic imaging booth to speak with our diagnostic imaging team. While you're there, you can also find all the resources you need to get started.