Image: Aurelia Tay

Aurelia Tay knew that she wanted to pursue a career in healthcare since she as a teenager. But she didn’t want to venture into medicine or nursing and so decided on radiography—the art and science of using radiation to provide images of the tissues, organs, bones, and vessels that comprise the human body.

“I chose to work and study for my Honours Degree concurrently, which was not the typical education path back then because radiography university courses were not available in our local universities. However, it is now a lot more straightforward to be a radiographer as the Singapore Institute of Technology offers a four-year diagnostic radiography programme,” she says.

The 31-year-old has been in the profession for the past nine years and currently works as a Centre Manager at DexaFit Asia, where she not only performs screenings and composition scans, but also coordinates day-to-day operations. She opens up about common misconceptions of her job and the joy her profession has brought her.

Not just ‘button pushers’

First things first: radiographers are more than just ‘button pushers’.

“Although it is true that x-ray images will be produced when we press a few buttons, the job also requires experience and knowledge of the human anatomy. It’s more than just taking a photo—we need to be able to see beyond the flesh and blood to produce images of diagnostic value,” she explains.

And while they wear scrubs, they are not nurses.

“There were numerous occasions whereby geriatric patients addressed me as “missy’. The assumption that men and women in scrubs are doctors and nurses respectively has such a firm hold in our minds that the diversified roles in this industry eventually gets forgotten.”

Credit: Aurelia Tay

Also, there is a difference between radiographers and radiologists.

“Radiographers operate highly specialised scanning machines to take x-rays and other medical images to assist doctors in the diagnosis. Radiologists are specialised medical doctors who are trained in medical imaging interpretation. That said, they work closely together to provide quality patient care.”

As with most jobs, there are advantages and disadvantages to being a woman in this line. While Aurelia has more options when when it comes to modalities as breast screenings and ultrasounds generally require female radiographers, it also took her “a while” to adapt to the physical demands of the role as it involves carrying x-ray imaging plates and lifting medical equipment.

Building social skills

In spite of the hoops she has had to jump through, the radiographer has found her job to be very rewarding.

“I get to help my clients uncover the data they need for a transformation. Plus, their testimonials give me great motivation to keep fit and maintain a healthy lifestyle,” she says. She adds that her job not only allows her to enjoy a healthy work-life balance as she does not have work to bring home, but also helps her to acquire skills like building rapport within a short span of time.

“The approach to handling patients can differ as they have different physical and psychological needs. The time I get to spend with them is generally not long, so I need to be able to build rapport with them [fast] to provide quality care.”

“One of the most memorable moments of my career was when an elderly patient I previously attended to came back for a review. She remembered that I have cold hands (it’s actually due to the hours we spend inside the x-ray room, which needs to be cold) and checked in with me. She reminded me of my grandmother and it was a heart-warming encounter.”

Thinking of venturing into the radiography profession? Aurelia’s key piece of advice is to have compassion and maintain a positive attitude towards continuous learning.

“Compassion is a must as we have to interact with patients constantly and they come to us hoping to find a solution or some reassurance to their problems,” she sums up.