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Lisa Pyke

Medical Radiological Technologist
St. Albert, Canada

What is your job title and what does it mean?

My job title is Medical Radiological Technologist and Radiological Technologist of Magnetic Resonance Imaging or R.T.R, R.T.M.R. or in short: people call us X-ray tech's.  It means that I have completed training at an accredited Canadian institution and passed a national exam.  This training permits me to legally operate radiation producing devices, such as X-ray machines, CAT scan machines and other equipment that uses radiation to see into the human body.

The use of radiation emitting devices is strictly controlled because it has been proven that radiation exposure can cause serious health problems.  Therefore, the only persons legally permitted to operate these types of machines are specially trained technologists that are aware of the potential dangers and benefits of the machines.

What do you do at your job?

I take pictures of the insides of bodies using different types of equipment.  The machine I use most is called a Magnetic Resonance Imager or in short form MRI.  The MRI machine uses no radiation and can take a very special kind of picture of the body.

Every body is made up of mostly water, each of us are 95% H2O [water] actually, and we use this fact to our advantage in MRI.  We use radio waves and a gigantic magnet that is up to 30 times the strength of the Earth's gravity to get the pictures we need.  The fast computers that are available today make this all possible.

Sometimes we look at bones, sometimes at muscles and other times at organs.  When a Doctor orders a test to look at specific body parts, like the brain or the liver, we are able to make images of the person so another Doctor called a Radiologist can interpret the images and report the findings to the patient's Doctor.

When did you decide you wanted to be a Radiological Technologist?

Well, it is a long story.  I was 22 years old and my husband, was 25.  We were married, had started a family, and we were expecting our second child, when my husband became ill.  He woke up one morning and was unable to walk and talk.  He underwent many medical tests to try to discover what was wrong with him.  None of the tests were giving us any answers.  The doctors told us about this new machine that was still in experiments at the University of British Columbia (UBC).  It was called Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI.  It was able to look inside the body to see changes in the brain that other machines like CT could not demonstrate.  Special arrangements were made to have this special experimental [at the time] test done.  He underwent the test.  No needles.  No stitches.  No parts of his brain were taken out.  No pain.  He was not left with any scars, marks, or disabilities.

I had always wanted to go to university or college and do something in the medical field.  I wanted a job that would be interesting, challenging and that would pay significantly so that if I were the only one in the family that could earn a wage that it would sustain the family.  I was inspired by the amazing technology that finally helped the doctors to determine what was wrong with my husband.  I wanted to make that kind of difference in other people's lives too.

What did you do to start on your career?

First, I researched the career and found out that to be an MRI tech, I needed to be an X-ray tech first.  So I found out what I required to become an X-ray tech and started taking 'baby steps' towards that goal.

How difficult was it to get into your field?

I was very nervous about the selection process for the X-ray program.  It was very competitive with over 300 people applying for only 12 spots for students.  I had to go through the group interviews and a selection panel reviewed aptitude tests and grades.  I was determined to become an X-ray tech, and planned as if I was accepted.  I was.  I started school the same day my son started kindergarten.  Two years later I was finished.  Then I took the MRI program.  And I am still taking different courses, I will probably always be.

What is the best part about your job?

The best part of my job is being able to make a difference in people's lives.  I believe that to be good at what you do, you must love what you do.  I truly love my job!  Every day, I meet new people.  Every day, I learn new things.  Every day is a new challenge and a chance to make a difference.  I help to give the answers.

I really like it when the patients thank me for helping them and sometimes I even get hugs!!!  I especially like the hugs.

What is the worst part of your job?

I would have to say that the worst part of my job is seeing people hurting and finding diseases or pathology that are not treatable.  It is especially hard to see children and parents in both physical and emotional pain.

One of the hardest things I have had to do was to scan a very ill child; we had to take the child from a Dad's arms so we could place the child on the table.  As we removed the child from the father's arms he was physically overcome with emotion and grief he collapsed against the wall weeping.  I had a very difficult time keeping myself together.  Thank goodness for my fellow colleagues as they helped the Dad and we were able to continue with what we needed to do to help the child.

What were your favourite subjects in school?  What were the school subjects that best contributed to your career today?

I really enjoyed biology and physics.  I also liked art and developed a kind of photographic memory.  I think my love of art and science helped me to blend the skills together to make great pictures to help visualize the body.

Does anyone else in your family work in the medical field?  If so, what does he or she do?

Actually, my Mom was a nurse.  We always had medical books around the house and I spent many hours looking at all the pictures of different diseases and cool body parts.

What was your family like when you were growing up?  Did you have any brothers and sisters?

Well, my Dad was a military man, so we moved around a lot.  We changed schools a lot.  I had 2 brothers and one sister.  My Mom was a stay-at-home Mom while we were young and returned to nursing when my youngest brother went to school.

Do you have any children?

Yes.  I have two incredible kids.  They are my pride and joy!!!  I have a girl and a boy.  They are 18 and 14 respectively.  Both kids are great to be around.  They are becoming very independent and are starting to plan their own lives.  I am proud of who they are.  They are wonderful people who will make the world a great place.

What does your family do now for fun?

We all enjoy the outdoors.  Sports.. hockey.. track.. swimming.. camping.. canoeing.. fishing.. hunting.. movies..  Just being with each other is great.  It is getting harder and harder to get together recently since everyone is so busy with stuff.

How did you get involved in scouting?  What are some of your favourite scouting activities?

I started about 5 years ago when a girls' scout troop was being established in the area.  They were in need of female leaders to help get the group off the ground.  My daughter was very interested in the idea and wanted to join the group.  I volunteered to help out with the group.  I wasn't an avid camper at the time, but I did love the outdoors and it gave me a chance to hang out with my daughter and her friends.

My favourite scouting activity is singing.  I love it when the girls sing!!  It lifts my soul!

One of my favourite times with scouts was a trip we took through back-country Alberta on horseback for ten days.  It was absolutely amazing!  The scenery and the time with the girls were priceless!!!  I hope to do it again if possible!!

What do you think is the best thing kids can learn from being involved in scouting?

I think the best thing kids can learn from scouting is that they can rely on themselves; they can do anything they set their minds to.

If you dream it, you can achieve it...

What is the best advice anyone gave you in your life?  What is some advice that you could give kids?

Never give up.

Follow your dream.

Be true to yourself.

Baby steps.  Even the littlest steps towards your goals will get you closer to them.  No matter how long it takes; never, never give up!

Lisa's Photos

- 26 June 2002


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Last Updated:
28 June 2002

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