Top 5 Chest X-ray Cheats for Beginners

Cheating is one of the most important skills a radiology trainee needs to master. Not only can a good cheat hide your incompetence, but sometimes it may even bring glory!

1. The Crystal Ball 

There are times when you're reporting a chest x-ray that the patient has already gone on to have a CT. When this occurs, you'd be crazy not to use it! If the CT shows a mass then you should report that sucker on your film with all the confidence of a hero. If the CT is normal then spit out a standard report and move on. 

Key features: hero potential, zero risk to patient 

2. Ultimate balling 

This is a more advanced version of crystal balling that involves the use of future cervical spine or abdominal CT to find apical or basal chest lesions. One of the great benefits of ulti-balling is that there is little chance of anyone ever calling you out on the cheat. Recently it has become popular for radiologists to tally their ulti-ball successes as a form of competitive cheating among co-workers. 

Key features: extreme hero potential, an emerging competitive sport

3. The Status Quo

If the film you're reporting looks the same as the previous one, and that one was reported by someone far more experienced than you, then just say the same thing as them. The chance of you genuinely spotting something that they missed is very low, but the chance of you creating a fake abnormality is high. 

The status quo cheat also comes with free indemnity cover. If it is discovered in the future that you missed something on the film, the fact that someone more experienced also missed it will mean that they cop the major blame instead of you.

Key features: commonly applicable, free indemnity

4. The Sneaky Show

If there's no previous or subsequent imaging for you to cheat off, then it may be time for a sneaky show. Find a colleague more experienced than you and make up some excuse to get them to look at your screen. "How do I invert the contrast again?". A radiologist's natural instinct will be to point out any abnormality they see, to which you will simply reply "Yes, I know that". If they say nothing then be careful; this cheat is prone to false negatives. 

Key features: sneaky adrenaline rush, competence protected

5. Rolling the Temp

A nice little fallback option for those chest radiographs you're not quite sure about. Find an experienced but unsuspecting radiologist who is only working temporarily within your department and pounce. Show them the case, ask them directly for their thoughts and then pass those off as your own. It doesn't matter if they end up thinking you are incompetent; temps are largely insignificant in the ultimate landscape of your radiology career. 

If it is later discovered that you missed something on the film then you have yourself the perfect scapegoat.  "Yes, I thought at the time that was a rib metastasis but I showed it to the short radiologist with bad teeth when he worked here and he assured me it was normal. I should've backed my own interpretation." 

Key features: controlled exposure of your incompetence, scapegoaty goodness


Disclaimer: This post is intended as entertainment only and should not be acted upon. Neither the author nor will be held responsible for any lawsuits, premature termination of employment, loss of income or ill-tempered temp related injuries resulting from the use of these cheats. 


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  • 13552554_10154148137596183_2100235814_n_tiny_portrait
    Ali Abougazia23rd Feb 2014 14:33 UTC

    Where was that when I was a beginner?
    Wait a sec.. I AM a beginner..

  • Perfil_tiny_portrait
    Federico Ortega23rd Feb 2014 18:10 UTC

    I laughed more than I sholud xD.

  • No-photo
    Anjana Sarita24th Feb 2014 03:59 UTC

    frequently use 1 & 3. have used 2 should use it more often. no need for 4 & 5 coz in case of doubts can frankly consult our senior radiologist...

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Publication date: 22nd Feb 2014 10:16 UTC

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