In your opinion, what are the key issues and challenges facing the radiology and radiation oncology workforce?
I think a shorter answer might come by asking what issues are not challenging the radiology and radiation oncology workforce! I suppose the standard answers to the question are: increasing service demand; persistent under-investment in staff and equipment resource; changing public expectations of healthcare; constant pressures to achieve efficiency savings; government targets for diagnosis and treatment; and lack of infrastructure for enabling early adoption of new decision support and computing technologies. However, these are easy to reel off and few people will contest them as they can be seen as being external to radiology and oncology – they are done to us and we hold no responsibility. However, the issues and challenges that we must own are the lack of professional unity (radiologist, oncologist, radiographer, clinical scientist and physicist), ambition and innovation in developing creative national solutions to address these challenges, particularly with regard to skills mix and workforce development. As a result, we have pockets of practice innovation across the country but limited opportunities to translate, use and apply these innovations across organisations and this has had a ‘knock on effect’ in terms of professional mobility, workforce development opportunities and staff morale.
Which radiographers do you most admire and why?
I admire any radiographer who is willing to stand up for what they believe is right, whether on behalf of patients, organisation or profession, even if I might not agree with their point of view! It takes courage to stand by your beliefs. But if I was to name an individual, then I would have to say I greatly admired and respected Eric Naylor. He started the Bradford School of Radiography and I was in one of the last cohorts of students before he retired. He was a great role model in terms of being a strong, knowledgeable, no-nonsense educator but he also cared for his students and nothing passed him by…I think he had the measure of each of us. I remember I was once in the library studying when he brought in a prospective student. In typical student style I put my head down and pretended to be invisible, but he came over to introduce me saying “this is Maryann…one of our better students when she tries!” A compliment and a put down in 8 words! So yes, I think Eric Naylor has influenced my ambition and approach as an educator and if I have helped, inspired or influenced just one of my students as he did me then I’d say I’ve succeeded as an educator.
What would be your advice to a young person starting out as a radiographer today?
Don’t ignore the technology…embrace it! I wish I had greater computer science knowledge and skill. Everything appears to be so dependent on computers, whether image capture and processing, data flow and management or image reporting and communication. My own research relies heavily on developing computer algorithms and I’m lucky to work with a team of computer scientists but it is also frustrating….I want to write the clever codes and algorithms rather than rely on others to interpret my ideas within a digital medium. Without a strong computer science grounding, it is really difficult to understand and appreciate the underpinning scientific processes and be creative and innovative in its development. If we ignore this important aspect of radiography then we can only ever be technology ‘drivers’ or ‘operators’, not the experts that mastermind its optimisation.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t wait for others to recognise your worth, value yourself even if others don’t. As a health professional we value team working and collegiality but that doesn’t always benefit you individually in terms of leadership, career progression and promotion. While I fully agree that together we are greater than the sum of our parts, I wish someone had also told me much earlier in my career to recognise and value my individual strengths as these are key to self-confidence.
What might we be surprised to know about you?
Oh I’m very much an open book….what you see is what you get! I suppose people are surprised when they find out I’m an avid supporter of my local football team Bradford City and have been a season ticket holder for many years. They might also be surprised to learn that I tried, and failed, to pass my motorbike test…pulling a wheelie doesn’t really impress the examiner but landing it cleanly got cheers and applause from those observing from the nearby beer garden! Oh and I love to dance…ballroom, Latin, salsa…if there’s good music and the chance of a good partner - I’m in!!
When you are not working, how do you like to spend your time?
Being outside! Walking the dogs, gardening, jogging, socialising…anything that involves being outdoors and away from a desk or computer.
Which actor would play you in the film about your life?
Definitely Julie Walters……it’s good to be able to laugh at yourself!!