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Ben Potts: My Working Life as a Diagnostic Radiographer

Published on: 28 May 2024

Gideon Anietie Benson: My Working Life

What did you want to be when you were growing up? 
Like most children, I shifted through many different career plans. I’ve always had an interest in working in healthcare or in a caring role. I remember wanting to be a vet, then realising that would include seeing animals in pain, then wanting to be a nurse or psychologist. As a teenager, I learnt to play the drums and joined a few bands, and working in music or as a professional drummer was then my leading aspiration.
Can you describe your work in 1 sentence?
Diagnostic radiographers perform the medical imaging that is vital for diagnosis, while providing care and compassion. I am a general diagnostic radiographer, which means I perform X-ray imaging in various different situations, including in emergency, theatre and outpatients.
What qualities do you think you need to do your job well?
Diagnostic radiography is at the intersection between technology and patient care. We need to be able to use our technological, scientific and legal knowledge to use ionising radiation, while also ensuring the patient is cared for and has the best possible experience. I do not see these as two separate entities.
Knowledge and application of radiation science is needed to keep the patient safe, so at the core of the profession is the drive to keep people safe while aiding their diagnosis. To do this you need to be empathetic, caring and compassionate. You also need a keen interest in anatomy and pathology so that you understand what you are imaging, what it should look like, why it is important, and what to do if something is wrong. No two patients are the same and they rarely look like they do in the textbooks, so being analytical, flexible and having the ability to adapt your practice is essential.
What are the main 3 factors that make you frustrated at work? 

  1. The pressures within the NHS mean that we do not always get to spend as much time as we would like with the patients we care for.
  2. The number of missed appointments.
  3. When a piece of equipment goes down, there’s nothing I can do and that is frustrating. We can usually find a way around it using other equipment though, such as a portable machine in the place of a fixed one.

Why would you recommend your career to a young person?
We are standing at the precipice of an artificial intelligence (AI) revolution in diagnostic imaging, which has immense potential to be transformative. The way we diagnose people might completely change and there is a real opportunity for radiographers to help shape that. If you have a keen interest in technology, in this profession you can use that passion to save lives.
The experiences that have had the biggest impact on me, however, have had little to do with the technology we use. It has been the times when I have been privileged to care for people facing the most adverse events that have inspired me both professionally and personally. To be able to share a connection, hold a patient’s hand, offer a moment of solace during an incredibly difficult ordeal or after a tragic accident is why I go into work. You really feel that you are making a difference every day.
What has been your biggest career disappointment or challenge and why, and how did you overcome it?
I am autistic, dyslexic and have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) which has presented a lot of challenges due to the way education for healthcare professionals is currently structured and managed. In the majority of courses for nurses and allied health professions, students spend around 50% of their time on placements where little consideration is given to how reasonable adjustments should be applied.
Being a healthcare student is hard, but neurodivergent students face a multitude of additional barriers. I overcame those I faced by reaching out to some very supportive tutors. However, it made me realise that others were facing similar struggles, so I co-founded a student initiative called SSHINE (Sharing Student Healthcare Initiative for Neurodiversity and Equity) with an apprentice nurse, Jade Wareham, to create resources using our lived experiences to help and support neurodivergent healthcare students. Now, we have over 20 people on the team drawn from many different professions. We wrote the NHS England ‘Guide to Practice-Based Learning for Neurodivergent Students’ and are currently working in partnership with the Florence Nightingale Foundation on an e-learning module for practice educators funded by NHS England.
What 3 factors make you skip into work? 

  1. The team I work with.
  2. The people I meet and have the privilege to care for.
  3.  The challenges of that day – I love problem-solving!

What’s the best advice you’ve ever got from a patient or work colleague? 
There will always be bad days, but rarely a bad week.
What was the biggest challenge when transiting from student to professional life?
I am only 6 weeks into this transition but so far, I think my own expectations and standards have been the biggest challenge. I’m lucky to work in a wonderful department with a kind and supportive team, but in the first few weeks, I struggled leaving work every day, feeling I had done a terrible job. As I am now qualified, I think I suddenly expected my skills and abilities to shoot up overnight and I would be the finished product. However, I am still the same person as I was when I was a student a few months ago – the only difference is I’ve collected a certificate.
It’s been important to acknowledge that I am still a beginner in the profession and have much to learn. I now have a much more open mindset, and I go to work keen to learn to be the best radiographer I can. This has been a much more productive and beneficial way to approach the transition and I feel much better in doing so.
What do you hope will be your legacy to your profession and colleagues? 
Once my preceptorship (structured period designed to guide and support newly qualified practitioners from being students to autonomous professionals) concludes, I want to do some research and eventually undertake a PhD. Neurodivergent people are known to face huge health inequalities, but little work has been done on identifying and trialling methods to reduce these. This is particularly true in radiology where we have little understanding of what adaptations in scanning procedures are required to support these patients. I hope that research in this area will be a big part of my career in the future.
What technological advance would have the greatest impact in your field?
AI is likely to revolutionise diagnostic radiography practice and bring benefits for both healthcare professionals and patients. We already use some equipment with intelligent image processing algorithms, and there is enormous potential for such algorithms to improve accuracy, efficiency, and decision-making. Algorithms can analyse images with remarkable precision, helping to prioritise patients that need immediate care. They can also support staff who analyse images and produce reports by highlighting abnormalities, suggesting potential diagnoses and augmenting images to allow a better view of certain anatomy.
What do you do to relax/de-stress?
I enjoy running and strength training, and I find they both help me to de-stress. The solo nature of these pursuits gives me quiet time to reflect after a busy week caring for so many patients. In complete contrast to that, I am also passionate about music and can often be found in the sweaty basement of an alternative venue listening to some extreme metal bands.
If you attempted to get in the Guinness World Book of World Records, what would you do?
It would have to be doing something for the longest time. I don’t have speed or agility, but I do have good stamina and I am resilient (or stubborn some might call it!)
What is the most dangerous situation you have ever found yourself in?
I hiked up Scafell Pike in terrible conditions on my own. I got to the top but the weather was so bad that I could not really see anything. It had been foggy and rainy on the way up, but just as I started the hike back down, the weather turned extreme. I could not see more than a metre or two in front of me and my phone had died. Luckily I had a good waterproof GPS watch so I knew I was heading the right direction; however, I did take some wrong turns and ended up doing quite a bit of scrambling over cliff edges. It felt like it was never going to end. I gave myself several pep talks, kept pushing through and made it down eventually.
What would you like to eat for your last meal?
I don’t think you can beat a good vegetable biryani.
Ben Potts is a newly qualified diagnostic radiographer, graduating with first class honours from Birmingham City University. He was awarded 'UK Student Diagnostic Radiographer of the Year 2022' by the Society of Radiographers, and is an alum of the Council of Deans of Health’s student leadership programme. 
A passionate activist for neurodivergent people, he has published journal articles, guested on podcasts and given talks on neurodiversity to universities, NHS trusts, and at the UK Imaging and Oncology Congress. 
Ben co-founded SSHINE, a student-led initiative with the goal of improving support for neurodivergent students in nursing and the allied health professions. SSHINE wrote the NHS England guide to practice-based learning for neurodivergent learners.
Ben is now in his first radiographer role at University Hospitals Southampton NHS Foundation Trust. In the future, Ben aspires to start a part-time PhD, focusing on improving the care and experience of neurodivergent people in radiology.