From 3D visual effects artist to apprentice diesel mechanic, and now a radiographer at one the southern hemisphere’s largest trauma hospitals, Christopher McCartney says it took him a ‘few digs’ before he struck gold in his career.
It was an appointment with a radiologist to examine a wrist strain that opened up a whole new world of career opportunities for the then 27-year-old from Fish Hoek, a small town in Cape Town, South Africa.
“I’d always thought doctors and nurses performed x-rays – I didn’t realise there was a whole field of radiology beneath it. My sister was looking at pursuing university study at the time, so I asked the radiographer a few questions out of curiosity. She ended up showing me around, telling me all about the job, and how you could get into it. I liked the sound of it so much that I cheekily applied for a Bachelor of Health Science (Medical Imaging) at Unitec, and the rest is history!”
That one interaction set Christopher’s career on an entirely new path. He found himself back in the classroom at Unitec, wondering if he was going to be able to keep up with the students who were fresh out of high school.
“It was a huge challenge for me to begin with, but I took it day by day. I’d never been a top student, so when I started getting A’s in some of my assignments I realised I’d found my passion. It really helped keep my motivation levels high. I also have great family support – I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”
Christopher also attributes his success to the clinical tutors at Middlemore Hospital and lecturers at Unitec.
“Unitec was the best thing that ever happened to me. You’re only as good as your teachers – and ours were phenomenal. One of our lecturers was previously an abdominal surgeon in Bulgaria, another had a doctorate in physics, so their level of knowledge was outstanding. The teachers were all so approachable and really took the time to make sure we understood the concepts.”
The three-year Bachelor of Health Science (Medical Imaging) covers all areas of radiography, providing all the basic knowledge required to do the job. It also features clinical practice throughout the degree, which means that hospital placements are par for the course from day one. The programme staff work closely with clinical partners to ensure the programme is not only current but also meets the needs of industry and community. For example, Medial Imaging students will now start and finish their degree in July, meaning they will graduate when there is the greatest demand for them. This is a direct result of industry feedback and puts Unitec graduates in a unique position.
“The clinical placements Unitec offers are critical. They expose you to the realities of the workplace and mean that when you graduate, you’re completely work-ready. You start out as a useful part of the team and can pretty much handle any curveball that’s thrown at you. The placements also mean you’re far more likely to have a job lined up when you graduate.”