Getting a scan isn’t as scary as you think: Advice from a radiography student

Words by Skye Zhu-Maguire


Radiographers are the ‘techs’ who do your x-rays, CTs and other scans. They are not nurses or doctors, so people are often unsure of who they are and the type of service they provide. 


But, we radiography students are training to be medical professionals and as such, we receive  extensive education about the human body and how we contribute to taking care of it. 


We also learn about the larger, societal factors that influence our job as healthcare providers. Something that has repeatedly caught my attention is how different people perceive health care. I have noticed that one’s race, gender, sexuality, class, ability level, and even self-confidence all change how they experience health care.


It has been well established that there are several economic and societal factors that prevent people from seeking healthcare when they need it. For example, there have been numerous studies revealing  that people of marginalised genders and races are less likely to seek medical care because they expect to be treated poorly given prior experiences, family horror stories and societal expectations. 


Whilst most of the reasons marginalised people may feel uncomfortable getting scans like x-rays are systemic, I wanted to write this piece as a radiography student and a young asian woman – to provide some comfort and clarity. 


Hence the following are my responses, to some of the (very valid) concerns that people like you might have about getting scans. Everyone deserves fair healthcare. 


What if I have never gotten a scan before and I don’t know what I am doing?


No matter if you have had one or one-hundred scans in your life, we will still give you the same instructions on exactly what to do. We tell you where to sit or stand, when to hold your breath and when you can stop holding ‘nice and still’. Never hesitate to ask questions because the more you understand, the better pictures we get – it’s a win-win!


Moreover, communication is a huge part of our training and we endeavour to use instructions and language that you will understand.


What if I dress modestly?

Unfortunately, for many scans, clothing does need to be removed so that we get the clearest pictures possible. However, I understand this can be a vulnerable and uncomfortable experience for many. 


If it helps, for x-rays, we can scan through thin material so in most cases you can keep clothing like thin leggings, long sleeve shirts, and thin head-coverings like hijabs and niqabs on (as long as there are no metal bits like pins). For ultrasounds, you will only need to remove the clothes from the part of your body that is being scanned. 


What if I do not identify as the gender assigned to me at birth? 


In our second year, radiography students participate in a mandatory workshop on diversity and inclusion. In my experience, a large portion of this workshop was about gender and respecting your gender identity. We learn about how to use pronouns correctly (including non-binary and neo-pronouns) and we are told to use the pronouns you tell us to use. 


If you are worried, most bodily scans are not particularly gendered. If you are coming in with a broken finger, we will take the same images regardless of your gender. 


But I do acknowledge that some scans will differ if they relate to your reproductive organs. But given the clinical nature of the work we do, interactions between you and a radiographer are often brief and incidentally not particularly gendered. In other words, we will talk to you about organs and biology, and not focus on your gender identity or presentation. 


What if I am self-conscious of my body? 


I promise you, we have seen more teeth, more stomachs, more toes than you will ever see in your whole life! Whatever you look like, whatever symptoms you are experiencing, your radiographer has seen it all before! 




What I have written in this piece is based on the training I have had so far and the experiences I have had in clinics and hospitals. Yes, care will be different as radiographers are all different. However, I hope this broad overview will ease some of your concerns. 


The reality is that radiographers go through at least 4 years of training to do x-rays and other scans. During this time, we receive education on how we can make sure our patient care is both personable and professional. And you can trust that we have seen every body part thousands of times and are never really surprised. You are our patient and any good radiographer will treat you with the kindness and dignity that all people deserve. 

Skye Zhu-Maguire

The author Skye Zhu-Maguire

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