That's what students told Notes at the launch of a new X-ray tool at Dubai Women's College. Reema Saffarini highlights the career.

Second year radiography students at the Dubai Women's College say society has a very dim view of their choice of career.

They were talking to Notes last Sunday during the launch of an e-learning tool that allows students to study X-rays on a computer, giving them the flexibility to draw, erase and redraw lines on soft copies of X-rays rather than their actual copies which have to be mounted on light boxes and then studied.

The students said people refer to radiographers as "X-ray technicians", and many even confuse them with nurses.

Misconceptions, a traditional outlook and lack of education were the top reasons for the confusion.

"Until now some parents used to think that getting exposed to radiation is very dangerous, especially for girls. We aren't really in any danger," said Badriya Khadim.

Moreover, the idea of female radiographers working with male patients is still frowned upon.

Fatima Al Rais had her share of that. During her training she was once reprimanded by a male patient: "Aren't you ashamed of touching other men?"

In another incident she was asked to leave the room because the male patient did not want a woman to take his X-ray.

On the flip side, UAE national women are more comfortable dealing with female Emirati radiographers.

"It's really great," said Alnoud Al Bastaki. "Some of them would tell us how happy they were that they found UAE national women doing the job. Some were proud.

"In fact, one of the patients brought her daughter with her who is about to finish high school. The girl had so many questions to ask about my job and its nature. In the end the girl said she was thinking of taking radiography as a career."

Educating the public

There is a need for more education and awareness about the field. "In the past people looked down upon nursing; things started to improve when we started educating families about the job. This can also be done with radiography," said Al Bastaki. "People do not see the point of wasting years of studies to graduate and work as a radiographer."

Besides, not many universities offer radiography as a major. "This is all new. Unlike colleges abroad where it is a well-known field," she said.

Zainab Al Rida gets the last word. "We are experts… radiographers. We are not X-ray technicians. We do not work with the machines. We work with people."

What is radiography?

There is so much to radiography than meets the eye, literally!

Students don't just work with X-rays as some people would think, said Alnoud Al Bastaki, a second year radiography student at Dubai Women's College. "A radiographer performs all kinds of medical imaging procedures. We are not allowed to provide a diagnosis. We just submit the images and information data."

A radiologist, on the other hand, can provide diagnosis and treatment. "In some cases radiologists come to radiographers for consultations," said Amira Al Sa'adi.

There are different types of medical imaging techniques such as CT scans - used to examine soft tissues such as the brain - MRI or magnetic resonance imaging - it uses a magnetic field to provide three-dimensional images of internal body structures - fluoroscopy - an imaging device that uses X-ray or other radiation to view structures in the body live.

The importance of a radiographer's job as Zainab Al Rida puts it lies in the fact that victims of traumas and accidents are always rolled into radiography first.

Tolerance and passion

"We are the first people to see the patients. Our job requires us to be careful and sharp. Radiographers' senses are always alert, because they need to always spot fractures, bruises and broken bones," she said.

"To work in such a profession, you must be able to tolerate ugly and horrific sights," said Badriya Khadim.

The job is not for those easily embarrassed. "You need to know how to deal with people. You must not be shy at all. You also need to be very patient," said Al Sa'adi.

Radiographic positioning and anatomy programme

- Dubai Women's College has launched a web-based e-learning tool that teaches medical imaging practices using videos, simulations and interactive learning materials for radiography majors.

- The programme was produced by health sciences faculty members, communication technology professors and the Centre for Allied Leaning and Multimedia. The programme is expected to be implemented next month.

- It guides radiography students through the steps taken in a hospital from the time of a patient's arrival to his departure.

- The programme concentrates on chest X-rays for a start.

- The programme also provides the students with multiple questions of basic, intermediate and professional levels to test students' knowledge.

- The project's content is accessed through WebCT Vista - a web-based platform - and is available for students on and off campus.

- "In the past students used hard copies of actual X-rays, put them on the light box and draw on them. Now, they can do that with soft copies, where they can draw, re-draw and erase lines and graphs. It is so convenient," said Diane Riper, member of medical imaging faculty at DWC.

- Mark Karstad, e-learning coordinator at DWC, said the programme will serve as a reference for the students. "When they go out and work in hospitals, employers can look at what techniques the students are following through this programme … . Students can always come back to the programme as a reference."