Healthcare Science Week – let’s meet Catherine a medical photographer

Wednesday 13th March 2024

Healthcare Science Week – let’s meet Catherine a medical photographer

What’s your name, role and where do you work?
I’m Catherine Beltramini, and I’m a medical photographer at Queen Victoria Hospital (QVH). My role involves taking clinical photographs to help doctors and other health professionals monitor various clinical conditions. The photos are also used as part of the planning process alongside other tests such as x-rays, scans and blood tests, or for educational purposes and publication if we get the appropriate consent.

Despite being a small hospital, we are one of the busiest medical photography departments in the UK. My role involves working all over the hospital in areas including ophthalmology (the study of the eye), orthodontics, facial palsy, burns, teledermatology (taking digital photographs of skin lesions), and plastic surgery. I may also work in wards, outpatient clinics, operating theatres and in our own studios. We run three teledermatology clinics a week, where we capture digital images and use them to triage, diagnose, monitor or assess skin conditions. This reduces waiting times for patients so we can see and diagnose them more quickly.

Describe a day in the life of your job?
My day starts at 8.30am when I set up the studios for the day. My day then consists of getting call-outs to different departments to photograph various conditions, as well as photographing patients in the studio. We also cover corporate events and provide staff portraits, and as well as the on-call service, we also run appointment based clinics such as teledermatology and facial palsy.

What do you enjoy most about your role?
I love meeting so many different people and the fact that I can play a part in documenting a patient’s life-changing journey from start to finish is wonderful. Patients often comment on how friendly staff are in the photography department, and how efficient the service is. We get to know some of the patients who return regularly to have their photographs taken, and they always feel comfortable and well taken care of when they are here. Having a photographic record that patients have access to gives them the opportunity to view their progress, and they can see just how far they have come with their treatment, which is reassuring for them.

The role is very diverse and no two days are the same. Another benefit is the opportunities for personal development.

What was your career path to the position you’re in now?
Being a professional photographer for over 10 years and having previously worked at a dermatology clinic that involves detailed skin photography, I developed a particular interest in medical photography. I was then lucky enough to get an opportunity to work here. The QVH medical photography department has a strong focus on training and development, which has been a great learning journey. I am also broadening my knowledge in graphic design, and did an InDesign course. Videography is also another necessary skill for the role, so I’m continuously developing my knowledge in this, with the help of supportive colleagues.

QVH has also enabled me to further my skillset within my role by funding a Clinical Illustration course through Staffordshire University, which I started in January, and will finish next March. This will lead to an industry-recognised qualification and registered accreditation with AHCS (Academy for Healthcare Science) and IMI (Institute of Medical Illustrators), which ensures that we follow the national standards and guidelines for clinical photography. The course covers the specialist technical skills that a clinical photographer needs, along with a knowledge and understanding of the issues surrounding the use of photography in healthcare locations. It also looks at the key knowledge and understanding of legal and ethical issues needed in medical illustration.

What is your biggest achievement to date?
Developing my knowledge in all the different areas of photography within my role, and I feel proud to work as a medical photographer here at QVH. We have the privilege of photographing so many different areas of medicine and working alongside specialists who are pioneers in their field. I look forward to learning and developing further within QVH!