Top 5 Tips: How to survive the first year of radiology training

Starting as a first year radiology trainee can be daunting: it’s a new job in a new department and possibly in a new hospital.

You will have previously been exposed to medical imaging during your medical training and first years as a doctor on the wards. However, now you get to experience radiology from a whole new perspective. You’ll be asked a new set of questions: what protocol should we use? what rate should we be injecting the contrast? can we still give contrast if their creatinine is...? are you happy with the images?

And then, you’ll be hit with the most important question of all: what the HELL is THAT and is it normal?  

Here are our top 5 tips to survive your first few months of radiology training:


The radiology department is a foreign land to new registrars. In a large department, there may be over 100 radiographers and they’ll be asking you questions in what will appear to be a foreign language. As it turns out, it is a foreign language, but one you’ll pick up with surprising ease! Don’t be afraid to ask the questions you need to ask to deliver safe patient care, and never be afraid to ask for supervision when you’re asked to do a procedure you haven’t done before, or feel unsure about.

Radiology isn’t just about sitting at a computer and reporting. There are a whole heap of things that happen in every radiology department:

  • never done (or even heard of) that procedure before - talk to your supervising consultant, roll your sleeves up, scrub in and get involved
  • overhear someone talking about a case that sounds interesting - go and have a look
  • don't understand what the sonographer is showing you - go and help scan the patient
  • don't understand what the clinician wants to know - get to a clinical-radiology meeting and speak to the clinicians

Don’t fall into the trap of becoming a stereotypical radiologist - get involved and engaged in your department and in the hospital as a whole.

The sheer volume of knowledge that needs to be attained in the first couple of months is huge - and that’s just to survive the day-to-day activities of being in the department, let alone studying for exams. The amount of learning you’ll need to do seems like an unattainable mountain to climb, but that’s why the radiology training programme is not just 1 year, it’s at least 5... and well really, you should never stop learning.

Put aside a bit of time to do some reading about what you’re not sure about from each day. It may be related to anatomy or physics, or about how to approach an imaging study or a specific pathology. Spending 5 minutes extra reporting a study so you can read up on is worthwhile.

You may be the only registrar starting in your department or you might be part of a larger group. Make a concerted effort to get to know your colleagues and not just the other registrars. Consultants are surprisingly friendly in most radiology departments. Getting to know the radiographers, technologists and support staff will make your life enormously easier, especially when you start on-call.

Radiology has a reputation to outsiders as a “lifestyle speciality” and yes, the hours aren’t as long as many of the surgical specialties. However, night shifts spent reporting a myriad of polytrauma studies with neurosurgeons breathing down your neck can be challenging.

You’ll most likely find the first six months tough - getting used to a new job, a foreign language to learn and a lot of study. But it will go by in a flash and you will soon appreciate what a great specialty radiology is.


We’d love to hear what your most important tips for surviving first year are. Please leave your comments below.

Good luck! 

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Publication date: 11th Feb 2014 01:06 UTC

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