Case study

Apprentice cardiac physiologist — Aneliese Lagan

Aneliese is completing the NHS Practitioner Training Programme (PTP), which involves working in the NHS as an apprentice cardiac physiologist while completing degree-level study. Find out how her sports science background helped her get the job

How did you get your job?

I graduated with a BSc in sports science, followed by an MSc in clinical exercise physiology. My current job with Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust was advertised on NHS Jobs, and I applied via an online application. I matched my relevant skills and experiences to the person specification to ensure it was clear how I was the best person for the role.

Following this, I was invited to a panel interview at the hospital. I researched the hospital and the Trust beforehand, in particular their values and what they stand for. I also had a mock interview with one of the careers team at Liverpool John Moores University to help me prepare.

What are your main work activities?

As an apprentice, I'm still learning the job. However, when fully qualified I will independently carry out cardiac tests such as echocardiograms, holter monitoring, blood pressure measurement, tilt table testing and exercise stress testing. I'll also monitor patients' physiology in the catheter laboratory during procedures such as angiogram, angioplasty and pacemaker implantation.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy the interaction with patients and the fact that every day is different. I also like the teamwork and camaraderie involved in working with other healthcare staff.

What are the challenges?

Balancing my job and the university aspect of my apprenticeship can be a challenge. It's hard motivating yourself to do university study at home after a long day at work. However, good time management and support from my colleagues and managers within my department has helped me a lot.

How is your degree relevant?

My undergraduate degree enabled me to gain new knowledge regarding anatomy and physiology of the body. There was also a module that touched upon cardiac physiology, and specifically the heart, which really intrigued me and led me down the path I'm on now. The knowledge and experiences I gained from my degree also helped me get hands-on with patients shortly after starting the role.

My Masters degree taught me clinical skills such as electrocardiography and blood pressure monitoring. I also built up my knowledge around risk factors of cardiovascular disease and how exercise impacts upon this. My placement at Aintree Hospital, which I completed as part of this course, was invaluable in enhancing my skills and allowing me to transfer knowledge from the classroom to the fast-paced hospital environment.

How has your role developed?

As I gain more knowledge and experience in my job, I will have more responsibilities. For example, I'll become competent in analysing ambulatory monitor recordings and sending results to cardiologists or to GPs. I'll also be able to monitor patients in the catheter laboratories who are going through procedures like stent implantation.

What are your career aims?

My long-term career goal is to choose a specialism and climb the career ladder to a higher band, which will enable me to take on more responsibility within the department. At the moment, I'm particularly interested in echocardiography but that could change as my studies evolve.

What's your advice to other students?

  • Get as much work experience as you can, as it will help you make a decision on which career path you want to follow. I originally wanted a career in research, but my work experience showed me that it wasn't and that cardiac physiology suited me better.
  • Be flexible in your career goals. After studying for an MSc it wasn't initially my intention to do an apprenticeship in cardiac physiology, but it's been a brilliant opportunity.

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