Soft skills and empathy are an asset when helping people in pain
This article by Margaret Harris was first published in the Sunday Times of 12 November 2023. It is an interview with Thuli Mtwana, a diagnostic radiographer at SCP Radiology Panorama, as part of the My Brilliant Career series.
What does your job as a diagnostic radiographer involve?
Radiography is the art and science of using radiation to produce medical images of different parts of the body. My colleagues and I take X-rays and other medical images such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) scans, bone density scans and mammograms, as well as screening in operating theatres for surgeons.
Radiographers are allied health professionals, who are primarily responsible for operating specialised equipment to produce high-quality diagnostic and medical images to assist physicians in diagnosing diseases and injuries.
A radiologist is a physician who interprets diagnostic images and provides detailed insights to the patient’s doctor, while a radiographer is the person performing the acquisition of the images and then submits them to a radiologist for interpretation.
The most fulfilling part about my work is knowing I make a valuable contribution as part of a medical team, working together for the well-being of patients. Nothing brings me more joy than helping to identify the root cause of pain or discomfort and putting a smile on the faces of my patients.
I qualified as a diagnostic radiographer 16 years ago and make sure I keep up to date with changes in technology. In fact, I’m completing a postgraduate mammography course.
What drew you to this work?
The career chose me. I didn’t know what I wanted to study after matric. Towards the end of grade 11 I visited a nearby hospital and was shown an ultrasound scan as well as the various equipment, and that piqued my interest and moved me in this direction. I went into radiography not knowing much about the field, but I have never looked back.
What do you think makes you good at what you do?
My skills and competence to perform my duties with confidence and professionalism make me good at my job. But, over and above that, my ability to show empathy, kindness and respect to the patients is a soft skill that comes naturally to me — and is one you need in this profession. This is especially the case when a patient is feeling vulnerable, emotional and concerned about the outcome of a scan, such as a mammogram.
What did you want to be as a child?
I wanted to be a teacher — an educator. However, my parents are teachers and encouraged me to move in a different direction. After I visited the radiologist department at a local hospital as a teen, I was drawn to radiography.
What is your go-to career advice for young people at the start of their careers?
I would advise young people to find a profession they are passionate about. When you are passionate about your work it shows in how you show up and treat others. It is also easy to go beyond the call of duty when you love what you do. This is especially important in the health sector, as you are dealing with different personalities and often patients who are ill and depend on you for their diagnosis and recovery.
I believe you can achieve anything if you work hard and have faith that you will achieve it.
SCP Radiology regularly writes about our staff to highlight radiography as a career. Read more about Radiography Careers in our News section.