Case study

Consultant cardiologist — Sarah

Four years after graduating in cardiovascular research, Sarah now works as a consultant cardiologist.She describes what it's really like to work in this challenging, yet rewarding sector

How did you get your job as a cardiologist?

After qualifying, I spent many years working as a junior doctor, working my way up the ranks of hospital medicine. I applied for my consultant post three years ago, and have been doing it ever since.

What's a typical day as a cardiologist like?

I will do a ward round of patients who are under my care. Some of these may be on the coronary care unit, or intensive care unit if they're more unwell. I see patients along with trainee doctors and a nurse specialist. I may then have a meeting or have the chance to catch up with some paperwork. I spend a lot of time in outpatient clinics, seeing more stable patients. Some of my colleagues spend time doing procedures such as stents or pacemakers. Others do heart scans, such as MRIs of patients' hearts. If I'm on call I go and see acute admissions who have a cardiac problem. Sometimes these patients are acutely unwell and need urgent help.

What do you enjoy most about being a cardiologist?

I really enjoy meeting patients and their relatives. Being able to cure them, or at least improve their quality of life in some way, is massively rewarding for me. There are lots of opportunities to learn new skills along with many chances to undertake research too.

What are the challenges?

Patient numbers are always increasing and we are constantly stretched and under pressure. It can also be emotionally difficult at times, for example when a patient dies. However, there are so many positives in this job that I try to focus on these instead.

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

Aside from my role in cardiology, I have also developed a role training junior doctors and now oversee the cardiology training in my region. Cardiology itself is a fast-changing speciality and there are new drugs and interventions being developed all the time. I know that in 10 to 20 years' time, there will be so many new technologies to offer patients and it's exciting to be part of this.

What advice can you give to others wanting to train as a cardiologist?

Cardiology is a diverse specialty and attracts many different personalities. It is hard work and at times difficult but I cannot imagine a more rewarding profession. Most of us are very happy to be approached by keen people who are considering cardiology, so just come and talk to us.

My top tips are:

  • Work hard as it takes a long time to become a consultant.
  • Enjoy what you do.
  • Learn how to work effectively as part of a team.

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