In the health profession, particularly medical radiation science, there is a rapid and dynamic advancement of technology and innovation. In addition, health practitioners are expected to deliver the highest standards of professional practice and patient care. It is a professional obligation for any medical practitioner to adhere to the principles of professional conduct. Given the rapid development in medicine and the public expectations from practitioners, I believe that life-long learning is not only necessary but also mandatory for professional health practitioners. Life-long learning promotes the continuous development of knowledge and skills throughout a practitioner’s career.
Importance of Life-Long Learning
Professional practitioners such as radiographers should seize every opportunity to increase their knowledge in radiation and X-ray science. Additionally, by undertaking life-long learning and reflective practice, improved learning resources are made available to the radiographers and students. To this end, I believe that life-long learning is essential to medical graduates and the medical practice in general in three major ways. Firstly, it encourages professional development through the acquisition of new skills and knowledge relevant to the rapidly changing medical practice. Given the rapid advancement in technology and innovation in radiography, as a radiographer, I would undertake continuing education in order to meet the challenges of the profession occasioned by technological development. Secondly, public expectations of professional conduct by all medical practice make it imperative for medical practitioners to acquire new skills and knowledge. Besides, life-long learning by implication makes one employable and fit to practice professionally. Thirdly, through continuing education, I believe that advancement in knowledge and skills can be enhanced in many medical disciplines. By undertaking lifelong learning and reflective practice, improved learning resources can be availed to radiographers themselves, other medical practitioners and students, which ultimately contribute to the advancement of knowledge. Thus, life-long learning within medical radiography science has many implications in professional practice, student learning and advancement of knowledge.
Strategies of Life-Long Learning for a Radiographer
Given the importance of life-long learning, access to learning opportunities by radiographers promotes continuing education and professional development. Continuing learning for physicians requires less dependence on traditional teaching methods as tutors take a more facilitative role with students taking the responsibility of evaluating their learning, reflecting on their practice, and identifying relevant resources for their learning. In contrast, in school, the teachers determine the evaluative criteria for students. In this respect, life-long learning enhances professional growth through peer assessment, greater participation, evaluation of performance in radiography practice, learning at the point of care, and documentation of practice-based improvement activities.
In the academic setting, radiologists are exposed to many opportunities of engaging in life-long learning such as peer assessment, teaching others, participating in research, and participating in radiology societies, which facilitate learning and exchange of knowledge. I believe that life-long learning for radiologists should occur at the point of care with improved access to reference resources to provide appropriate information. Much of the challenges that face lifelong learning stems from a failure by practicing radiologists to search for information or critically reflect on their practice. In this regard, I believe that to achieve the best life-long learning for radiographers, strategies such as learning done in the context of patient care and teaching in academic settings are essential. Another strategy essential in achieving life-long learning for radiographers is access to current and relevant publications and learning resources. Although this has less impact on patient-point-of-care learning, the current medical information obtained through access to medical journals can stimulate learning and reflective practice.
In my opinion, the scope of life-long learning in radiography should not only involve established practices such as Magnetic Resonance (MR), but also newer technologies in radiography practice. Additionally, for professional development, other courses not in the domain of radiography such as medical informatics, nanotechnology, and medical ethics are important. Radiographers can also join societies and professional organizations, which promote learning from one another. Of particular interest to me are the radiography societies at the local or national level. These societies promote learning and sharing of knowledge through frequent publications and the latest advances in radiography, which are essential in adult learning.
Involvement in research is another way, in my opinion, of promoting continuing education. Research allows the development of valuable solutions to problems and adds to the bank of knowledge that benefits everyone. Moreover, research enhances a radiographer’s ability to critically examine a problem and seek solutions. Engaging in multidisciplinary conferences where professionals give their views regarding a given situation can also enhance long-life learning and improve the participants’ perception and interpretation of a given procedural technique. The discussions in the conferences involving professionals from diverse medical specialties enhance one’s understanding of medical concepts and help create professional communities that share knowledge in many aspects.
Through long-life learning and peer assessment, radiologists can learn to be self-critical after being corrected by colleagues. In this way, a radiographer learns to evaluate himself/herself and in the process improve his/her perceptions or interpretation of a given procedure. Reviewing of precedent cases not only improves a radiographer’s understanding of a procedure but also provides a basis for decision-making.