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I study diagnostic radiography: Tara Liley

11 October 2017
What it's like studying an applied science
Tara Liley explains why she chose her degree, what a typical day looks like at uni, and what surprised her the most about studying at the University of Sydney.
Tara Liley

Why diagnostic radiography?

I always knew I wanted to complete further education in a health-related field, I just didn't really know the specific area. I selected my HSC subjects based on my interests and hoped this would lead me to an interesting career that I would enjoy.

To be honest I didn't have a great idea what a radiographer was…. sure, I'd had x-rays and a CT scan in the past but I didn't truly understand the breadth and depth of this growing profession. The ability to assist to see if treatment for a premature baby is working, and assist surgeons in the positioning of tools in the operating theatre, to the thrilling, high-energy nature of trauma radiography in the emergency department, radiographers cover a lot more than 'just x-rays.

How did it feel when you received your offer?

I was very excited to receive my offer and begin this new and exciting chapter of my life. I was also nervous to start university! Like everyone, I knew no one, had no idea where I was going and no idea what to expect. However, deep down I knew I was ready for university and the challenges it would bring.

What does your degree involve? 

I have been fortunate to experience a range of private practices, private hospitals and large public hospitals throughout my radiography journey and have been aided by many amazing people. I relish the ability to use my skills to help real people e.g. completing a child's wrist x-ray to diagnose a broken radius, to promote swift treatment through casting

My favourite units are the clinical placement units where I have the chance to experience what it is like to be a 'real' radiographer.

What surprised you most about this degree?

I honestly didn't know what to expect coming to university. What surprised me most was the depth and range of subjects undertaken by radiographic students e.g. physics, sociology/psychology and other modalities aside from x-rays (MRI, US etc). Although university is greatly focused on generating great x-ray images (radiographs) there is also a focus on patient care, teamwork and communication, which is understandable as these are valuable attributes for radiographers.

How does university compare to high school?

University is different to high school, for starters it is a lot bigger. Although with the health science campus being based at Cumberland, the campus is smaller and less daunting and more 'high school-like.'

University has different structured classes with lectures, tutorials and practicals rather than a combination of all these teaching methods like high school.

University is also different to high school, as it's your own responsibility to stay organised and on task. This is a great transition into adulthood and gives you a taste of the real world where you need to take responsibility for your own actions and be accountable. There is also a greater range of teachers with a larger range of teaching styles than a typical high school.

What are your classmates like?

My classmates are great. We are all different to each other - different ages, different backgrounds, and from different suburbs - although we all somehow seem to get along due to our shared interest and passion for radiography.

Radiography is a specialist degree and profession meaning there is less than 100 of you in the degree. Therefore, you're all like a big 'year group' at school where you will get to know each other and know everyone by name.

I have met some of my closest friends at university. Choosing a degree that interested me and that I enjoy has led to me meeting a range of like-minded people with similar interest, leading to lifelong friendships.

What are your lecturers like?

As scary as they might seem (at first), the radiography teaching staff are all lovely. They share the same passion and interest as you. They are all extremely knowledgeable and experienced radiographers and you will hear many of their glory (and gory) stories as you pursue the degree. The staff have your best interest at heart, and work extremely hard to help you understand course content. Many of them are University of Sydney graduates themselves and understand what it's like to be in your shoes.

What are your future career plans?

I am currently in my last semester of my radiography degree, and hope to be employed as a diagnostic radiographer next year. I love the energetic, fast-paced nature of the hospital setting with the variety of modalities, shifts and personalities; I also admire the finesse of the private sector.

I don't know what the future holds for me, but I have loved every minute of this degree and selected a career that I really enjoy.

I would like to pursue my CT masters here at the University of Sydney as a postgraduate student, then eventually focus my skills on MRI or US (after perfecting my general x-rays and CT skills).

Any advice for someone who is thinking about applying for this degree?

I recommend you apply for the Bachelor of Applied Science (Diagnostic Radiography). The last four years of my life have been an amazing, fun-filled journey where I have learnt all about the human body, radiation, the health systems and hospital network, and seen plenty of injuries (from a knife in the abdomen, to a missing finger). I have also learnt so much about myself - I have grown leaps and bounds as a person throughout my radiography journey and you will too.

If you're interested in the human body, health and think radiation is pretty cool I recommend this course to you.