Case study

Clinical technologist — John Bladon

After graduating with an MSci Physics from Nottingham Trent University, John works as a clinical technologist in the radiotherapy physics team at a major NHS teaching hospital

How did you get your job?

I was made aware of the clinical technologist role supporting radiotherapy treatment for cancer patients via a friend. I applied, was invited for an interview and eventually received an email saying I was successful. It did take a while to get started, with the time between sending the first email and my first day being around five to six months.

What's a typical working day like?

As a clinical technologist, I test and maintain cutting edge equipment including linear accelerators, orthovoltage units and CT scanners, and ensure that patients receive accurate and safe doses of treatment.

My department uses flexi-time, which allows me to choose my own start/finish hours (within reason) to work 7.5 hours per day. I usually choose to work 9am to 5pm with half an hour for lunch.

My machine testing or quality assurance (QA) work involves analysing test results and performing testing if there are alerts, or after any repairs. We test after a repair as simple as replacing a bulb. I also work on other projects where available, such as coding or large data projects.

On occasions we're scheduled in for 'run-ups', which means starting and testing the machines early in the morning to ensure they're ready for patient treatment start times. Similarly, we'll occasionally need to spend an entire day at the weekend carrying out monthly tests that are then analysed during the week.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I like the freedom of being able to start late/early and balancing my finish time accordingly. I also enjoy the knowledge that working for the NHS means that my work assists patients and people in need.

What are the challenges?

As with the start of most careers, there's a lot to remember at one time. However, there are plenty of opportunities to practise testing with the treatment machines, and colleagues are always happy to help whenever I ask.

In what way is your degree relevant?

I would say that my degree helps me to understand a lot of the protocols, machine workings and how testing relates to the outcomes.

My deeper knowledge of physics isn't directly relevant right now, although I can see the more senior staff, such as medical physics experts, using their knowledge of physics to determine the processes once testing is complete and if tests need to be repeated or parts replaced.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

I'd like to be in a position where I can use my knowledge to solve problems that arise, as opposed to just detecting them. This role develops into being able to run all quality assurance tests on machines and then eventually (around six months in this particular department) planning treatments for patients passed on from doctors.

What are your tips for aspiring clinical technologists?

  • At my hospital, entry roles are usually paid at Band 5 on the NHS pay scale. Ideally, you want to be placed onto a training scheme such as the clinical technologist training scheme (run by IPEM or similar) in which you're a Band 5 in training and a Band 6 on completion.
  • While training, try to get involved as much as you can to broaden your knowledge and experience. For example, if a machine breaks down or has an unusual output, ask to observe or help whoever is sent to do further testing.
  • Consider whether you want to apply for the Scientific Training Programme (STP), which leads to a more senior role as a clinical scientist.

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