Hi Gemma! Please could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your job?
My name is Gemma and I’m a recent radiography graduate. I’ve always been fascinated by science and how it can be used to help people.
Maths plays a crucial role in science – without it, radiographers wouldn’t be able to do their job. We use maths everyday!
Why do you think maths is important?
Maths underpins all science. It allows radiographers to understand the fundamental things that happen in our universe and if we know maths, we can know all science.
How do you use maths in your job?
I use maths everyday while I x-ray people with sports injuries, when they’ve fallen over, or generally unwell.
Maths helps me to work out how much radiation each patient needs so I can see their bones clearly to spot any small cracks. This will help us decide, for example, if a patient needs a cast.
Lots of people think that radiographers simply X-ray broken limbs, but everyday is different for us. We do so much more as radiation can be used to help lots of people in all different sorts of situations. Sometimes I am in the operating theatre, other times I am in A&E, or even with pregnant women showing them how their baby is doing!
As well as these, we do nuclear medicine scans (where patients swallow an isotope, a radioactive substance, so essentially people will be radioactive), CT scans (where we can see people’s brains and every vessel in their body), and fluoroscopy scans, which allow us to take live pictures as they swallow drinks that glow.
For example, when someone has a heart attack and has arrived at hospital, they will get sent to a ‘cath lab’. Here, radiographers will inject a dye into their vessels, which will show us the heart. We can then take pictures of this and work with the surgeon to fix the heart.
How amazing is it that I am able to see people’s bones through using maths?!
Do you have any advice for someone who may find some parts of maths tricky?
Everyone says this, but it really is true: practice makes perfect. Even if you think you understand something, do it again. If you find it hard, just keep going. It really will get easier.
Also remember that in maths, there’s always more than one way of working something out. If you find something very tricky, maybe ask your teacher to teach you another method.
What’s your favourite number and why?
2, because it fits into every other number!
If a school wanted a radiographer to visit their school and inspire their students, what advice would you give them?
Your teacher could visit the Primary Futures
website, or the STEM Ambassadors
page of the STEM Learning website and sign up to one of them. This lets them connect with volunteers from different jobs around the UK. These volunteers offer their time to help inspire young people.
Thank you Gemma!
How does Gemma use maths in radiography?
In radiography, Gemma uses a lot of number skills: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. She needs to use these skills to track any changes or unusual signs in an X-ray.
Gemma also uses lots of geometry. She needs to be able to describe the shape and size of organs, areas or any noticeable shapes. For example, she may be showing a patient an X-ray of their lungs and she may need to be able to describe a slightly darker shape on the image. Gemma needs to be able to work out angles for needles and tubes to make sure it doesn’t hurt the patient and it gets to where it needs to go.
When she does an X-ray, Gemma has to make sure that it is at the right angle in order to get a good image. Measure is also very important for X-rays. Gemma needs to be aware of the distance of the X-ray beam and the patient and use all sorts of calculations to work out how far apart they should be in order to protect the patient while still getting a good, clear image on the X-ray.
Another mathematical skill that Gemma will use is statistics: she needs to be able to work out how likely it is that a patient needs further help, or whether it is likely to resolve itself. She may also need to track her patients, and keep up to date with new technologies or procedures.