Allied health professionals (AHPs) have a responsibility to not only treat the sick but to help people remain healthy. We must reach out to the whole of society where the significant determinants of health are located. The UK AHP Public Health Strategy Framework1 outlines the four domains of public health; Population Health, Health Improvement, Wider Determinants and Health Protection. The 14 Allied Health Professions all contribute to public health, but they don’t often contribute to health protection. Radiographers, however, are uniquely positioned to contribute to the ‘Health Protection’ domain, which is defined as the protection of the population’s health from communicable diseases, environmental hazards and population-level screening.
Radiographers are an integral part of national cancer screening programmes and are also responsible for ensuring patients are not subjected to more radiation than is necessary for their well-being. Radiographers are responsible for the radiation safety of the patient and will always aim to keep the risks of radiation exposure as low as reasonably possible. Part of this responsibility is ensuring there is credible justification to authorise exposing patients to ionising radiation. Sometimes it may cause frustration when a radiographer questions or asks for clarity on an imaging request from a referrer, but it is their professional responsibility and legal obligation to do so. Referrers can help the radiographers to deliver quality and efficient patient care by providing accurate clinical information, including detail as to what the clinical question is that the imaging is trying to answer, on the referral.
Whist modern medical imaging has brought significant clinical diagnostic benefits, it has also introduced hazardous environments that need careful monitoring and control. Examples include scattered radiation within a CT scanner room or x-ray room as well as in theatres with x-ray guidance, and interventional labs and wards where portable x-rays are obtained. It also includes the high field strength magnet contained within an MRI suite which can cause significant danger and harm if ferrous objects or implants are brought into the environment unchecked. The radiographer is responsible for the safety of all personnel, including staff whilst controlling these medical devices and it is therefore important to respect and follow their instruction and guidance.
Working with the radiographer and providing high-quality information to support an imaging referral will assist the radiographer to provide the best and most diagnostic imaging. This facilitates accurate diagnosis whilst maintaining high standards of safety for patients, staff and visitors.
- Hindle L, Charlesworth L. UK Allied Health Professions Public Health Strategic Framework 2019-2024. Public Heal Engl Allied Heal Prof Fed. Published online 2019. http://www.ahpf.org.uk/files/UK AHP Public Health Strategic Framework 2019-2024.pdf