“Age ain’t nothing but a number,” believes Noluthandu Nkosi, a KwaZulu-Natal radiographer. She shares her story about the passion and challenges of being a young professional in rural areas.
“What keeps me going is the thrill of helping people. Knowing that I contributed to someone’s life means a lot to me,” says 24-year-old Nkosi from Newcastle who works as a radiographer at KwaCeza Hospital in the north of KwaZulu-Natal.
Nkosi tells Health for Mzansi that she has always wanted to work in the medical field but hated seeing blood. After a lot of research, she found that radiography was perfect in terms of not being exposed.
“The reason I chose radiography was the term they use, ‘eye of medicine’, to describe radiography in medicine. It seemed too interesting and so mysterious. My love for radiography grew during my hospital visit in 2016 while I was still applying. I got to understand the ‘eye of medicine’.
“I saw how images were obtained to help diagnose patients. At that time, I was so clueless about how images were obtained but so keen to learn. When I started university, I had a clue what to expect; although the learning part was hard the practical parts in the hospital were so interesting to see and learn.”
A day in the life of a radiographer
Radiography is defined as the art and science of using radiation to provide images of the tissues, organs, bones, and vessels that comprise the human body. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the job is as easy as taking a selfie.
“People think it’s easy like taking a selfie, honestly it is not that simple. Medical equipment is used to obtain pictures of the inside of a patient which will diagnose the patient’s injuries or illnesses,” she explains.
“We use our knowledge and learning from university and apply it practically to take images. We must deal with a person who typically is sick, or in pain, and position them correctly for the exam needed. I do not only push buttons, but I also must understand the science of the equipment for every part of the body to be able to push that button. My colleagues and I must always know the benefits versus the risks of imaging before we even take the patient.”
Communities are near and dear
Unlike her peers who look forward to working in the city and in big hospitals, Nkosi enjoys the close-knit community that she is in even though there are challenges that she encounters as a young professional.
“KwaCeza is a small hospital and we are a small family who work closely with every profession in the hospital, so I fell in love with the idea of working closely with others. It meant more learning about other professions and how others work. So, for my post community service, when I got an offer, I didn’t think twice. A bonus to this area is that town is very far, so I save more since I do not go out often. Saving will help me use that money to study and I have plenty of time to study after hours since there is little to do.”
She says one of the challenges that she faces is that older patients judge her because of her age and height and the way she speaks because she stutters.
“One thing I always face with older patients specifically in this area, is the comparison with their children. I often get told I am the same age as their children who are at school and don’t know anything and don’t deserve to be working at a hospital.”
Despite all of that, Nkosi continues to keep her head high.
“I am resolute, I assure them that I know what I am doing and don’t hesitate on how I give instructions. I speak highly of my work, show no doubt, and with a face that is determined and comforting.”
Learning is a passion
The future looks bright for Nkosi, who plans to further her studies and work in a much bigger hospital to assist her in exploring much-advanced technology “Furthering my studies by doing a mammograph course, which is a radiography specialty, is on the cards. After that, I will do a management course so that in five years I will be able to apply to a tertiary hospital. The reason I want to go to a tertiary hospital is that all the imaging technology used in radiography is available. In that way, I can learn more and better my skills.”
Nkosi encourages young people who want to enter the health sector, to do it with all their hearts.
“For anyone who wants to start a journey in health, go in with a big heart, go in mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually prepared. Leave your beliefs outside because you must deal with people who are very different from you, and you need to listen to and care for them. Different people will treat you differently and you must understand all sides without being biased. Do it with your heart, not with peer pressure, because you would not survive if you don’t give it your all.”