Therapeutic Radiographers support some of the most vulnerable people: individuals who are going through cancer treatment. A highly specialised role, therapeutic radiography expertise is and will continue to be in high demand.
In 2018, the Society of Radiographers critised the government over their lack of action around ensuring the future of radiography services. In particular, the Society noted a shortage of therapeutic radiographers will have 'critical effect' for cancer treatment. At the time, half of patients diagnosed with cancer received radiotherapy as part of their tretment plan and the view was this would rise to six out of 10 patients by 2025.
Richard Evans, Chief Executive Officer of the Society and College of Radiographers (SoR | CoR) said:
"For some years there have not been enough qualified therapeutic radiographers. This threatens to cause delays to patients receiving treatment. The shortage of qualified staff could become significantly worse because universities which deliver the degree are reporting that the number of students signed up for the three-year course from September has slumped diastrously. In one instance, we have been told that recruitment of school leavers and mature students to their course has dropped by 50% compared to previous years. One provider even said they are planning to drop the therapeutic radiography programme for 2019 because of the difficulty in recruiting students."
A fall in applications for courses since 2017, was seen across all allied health professions (AHPs) of which therapeutic radiographer is one.
Without a successful intervention to raise continuous awareness of this career path with potential students, those receiving cancer treatment will have limited access to radiotherapy services.
If we don't have enough students looking at a career in therapeutic radiotherapy, we will not have enough qualified therapeutic radiographers joining the healthcare workforce to plan and deliver radiotherapy.
Funded by the Office for Students (OfS) and part of the Strategic Interventions in Health Education Disciplines (SIHED) programme, the campaign targeted young people in schools and college as well as mature students using a variety of resources to support the delivery of careers outreach education across the UK.
In particular the campaign focused on increasing awareness of career paths in four key allied health professions (AHPs):
The SIHED programme began in January 2018 and ran until March 2021, with a budget of £1 million per year. The campaign was successfully launched during this time, with the promotional website and supporting resources still in use to this day.
Video: Examples of graphics created for the I see the difference campaign.
Image: A slide from the ‘Mature Student and Career Changers’ presentation
Image: Page from the AHP information pack for A Level Students
In 2018, we welcomed a new member of staff on secondment to work exclusively on the project. Michelle Tyler became our Outreach Officer, working on the I See the Difference marketing campaign and responsible for representing the College and our profession.
Michelle’s key objectives starting the project were:
At the Annual Radiotherapy Conference 2020, Michelle gave an update on where the project team were in meeting these objectives, giving examples of the different marking activities she had undertaken:
Audio: Outreach in our Therapeutic Radiography Community and Beyond [29:18]
The core activities delivered across 2018 – 2021 included:
Video: The WOW Show – Live Health Careers Special [June 2019]
Because of the extensive outreach activities, the campaign achieved the following:
Overview the campaign has led to an increase in course applications, with a steady increase noted since work started in 2018:
Image: Data compiled for the SIHED Programme evaluation report written by SQW
Additionally, new postgraduate courses and degree apprenticeship routes have been introduced which should see the positive trend continue, especially amongst our potential mature students.
At the close of the SIHED programme an evaluation report made 10 recommendations on how the positive response to the outreach activities could be maintained and continued. The recommendations included:
The Society of Radiographers created a new permanent position for a Careers Promotion and Outreach Professional Officer in 2021. This new post will build on the lessons learnt, expanding to focus on boosting awareness about both diagnostic and therapeutic radiography career pathways.
A key piece of learning that came from the campaign is that everyone can ‘do’ outreach and the College of Radiographers can inspire and support Society members to promote the profession at every level. In collaboration with Health Education England (HEE) and the I See the Difference campaign, the Society launched in summer 2021 an e-learning programme called Promoting Careers in the Allied Health Professions.
Comprised of three interactive modules, the resources teach learners how to:
The course is available to all NHS based staff via the eLearning for Healthcare platform.
Image: Banner image from the eLfH Promoting Careers programme page
In 2022, the Careers Promotion and Outreach Professional Officer will continue to lead a review of all promotional materials as well as outlining improvements we could make to the College of Radiographers careers website.
We also hope to return to face to face outreach events at some point.