When Elaine James decided she needed a new challenge, she did not know she would end up in a role that combined physics, medical knowledge and the ability to liaise with patients and different departments in one of the country's busiest hospitals.

Ms James is one of a team of assistant practitioners at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge. Five years ago, she was ready for a career change and decided to opt for a route into health.

Luckily, her change coincided with Addenbrooke's decision to create a new role of assistant practitioner in radiotherapy.

Addenbrooke's wanted to enhance its existing radiography service by developing a role that would complement its highly qualified radiographers.

Ms James completed a national vocational qualification level 3 supported by additional learning to cover the specifics of radiotherapy. Of her new role, she says: 'My role is very flexible so I can manage paperwork, support patients through the process, organise blood tests and carry out any number of activities to assist the senior radiographers in the delivery of treatment.'

This flexibility is vital to the success of the role, allowing radiographers to continue delivering the clinical side of the radiotherapy while making better use of their time, improved service to patients.

The routine

A typical day for Ms James starts and ends with the treatment machines in the designated treatment areas. After carrying out the daily machine checks and getting the area ready for the arrival of the senior radiographer, she starts to see the first of up to 40 patients of the day.

Fortunately, she enjoys the variety and challenge that comes every day with her role. 'It's an interesting role because I use a cross section of skills, when I'm dealing with patients, administration, clinical matters and liaising with other departments in the hospital,' she says.

Ms James is also the main point of contact with people, reassuring patients and ensuring all their questions are answered. It is also important to relay information back to the other members of the team to make the experience smoother for the patient.

So would Elaine recommend this role to others? 'Yes, definitely,' she says. 'As long as you have a general interest in this type of work, you'll get on well.'