Case study

Trainee healthcare scientist, cardiac sciences — Simon Oates

Simon explains how his sports science background helped him get a place on the highly competitive NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP) as a trainee healthcare scientist specialising in cardiac sciences

How did you get your job?

After graduating with a BSc in sports science, I went on to obtain an MSc in clinical exercise physiology. I then applied to the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP) for the cardiac science specialism. Following successful completion of the online tests, application form and multiple mini interviews, I was offered a place as a trainee healthcare scientist in a London hospital.

Do you have any relevant work experience which helped you secure the job?

I enhanced my interpersonal skills by doing some general ward volunteering at a hospital. I also did further placements during the third year of my undergraduate degree and during my MSc, which helped to familiarise me with the NHS clinical environment.

What are your main work activities?

I use various diagnostic equipment and tests such as electrocardiograms (ECGs), echocardiography and exercise stress tests to diagnose and treat patients.

I also assist in operations such as pacemaker implantation and follow-up, percutaneous coronary interventions, and coronary artery bypass grafts.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I have the satisfaction of helping people and using my scientific knowledge. There's lots of variation in my job and no two days are the same. My job is academically stimulating, and I'm using the knowledge I gained in my past studies.

What are the challenges?

The course is very busy, so making sure you stay on top of your competencies and university work is demanding but doable with good time management and organisation.

Clinics can be very busy, so making sure you work efficiently whilst also providing a high quality service can be tough. However, it's crucial you don't miss anything diagnostically, so being meticulous is important.

More broadly, it's tough identifying your specific role to others. Clinical science is a relatively new profession and there aren't many roles within the cardiac specialism once qualified. We're different from your average practitioners as we should also be involved in research, bringing innovation into our respective departments whilst also carrying out diagnostic tests.

How relevant is your previous study to this job?

My undergraduate sports science project in the area of cardiac science probably helped me to stand out from the crowd. The technical skills module in my MSc Clinical Exercise Physiology course helped familiarise me with the hands-on skills needed for the job. The cardiovascular physiology modules are also very relevant to this job, as are the research skills that I developed.

How will your role develop as you progress through the STP?

The STP will give me the chance to develop into a leader, to be in charge of healthcare staff and be a teacher to them. I will also complete a further part-time, fully funded Masters degree over the three-year duration of the STP.

The training will lead to qualification as a healthcare clinical scientist, specialising in cardiac sciences.

What's your advice to others wanting to get into this job?

If you're set on a career in cardiac sciences, look into the NHS Practitioner Training Programme (PTP) as it's notoriously competitive to gain a place on the STP. However, the PTP doesn’t lead to qualification as a healthcare scientist - it would enable you to work as a healthcare science practitioner within cardiac sciences.

Get as much experience in hospitals as you can, whether this is through general volunteering, part-time paid work or course placements. This will not only boost your employability, but will help you decide which job roles are right for you.

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