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  • Writer's pictureThe Catalyst Team

Meet our Mentors: Danielle in Healthcare Science


This week is Healthcare Science Week, a time to celebrate and raise awareness of over 50 scientific specialisms and professional groups in this diverse NHS workforce. Over the last 75 years NHS healthcare science has played a vital role in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of disease; and the health of our population. Read on to find out more about the opportunities in healthcare science, and to hear from one of our mentors, Danielle, about her experiences within neurophysiology!


Words by Danielle Johnson

 

Have you ever considered a career in Healthcare Science?


When I was younger, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in science or healthcare but I thought the only options available were to be a doctor or nurse. I had come across physiotherapists through playing sport and I encountered a radiographer once whilst having a scan for an injured ankle – but beyond that I had no idea. It wasn’t until much later on that I found out about the more than 50 specialisms that make up healthcare science! 

Healthcare science underpins over a billion diagnostic investigations and treatment interventions a year ​and impacts three in four of all clinical decisions made in the NHS. It has played a vital role in the diagnosis, prevention and management of disease throughout time. Healthcare scientists are responsible for every piece of medical equipment to ensure patient safety and they are at the forefront of shaping technological advances that address the greatest health challenges of today. We are the hidden workforce that perform your tests and scans, work to optimise your treatment and develop new methods of delivering your care.


There are four key divisions of healthcare science:


Life Science:

If you work in life sciences, you will play a crucial role in helping to improve our understanding of illnesses and their treatment. You might also be responsible for developing new treatments for common medical problems, such as infertility or allergies. The majority of your time will be spent in hospital laboratories, where you will analyse different samples from patients to give doctors the information they need to make an accurate diagnosis. You may also work on hospital wards or in the community.


Physiological Science:

In this area of healthcare science, roles are mainly patient-facing. You will examine people directly to look for any problems in the way their body is working and advise on diagnosis and management of a variety of conditions. You’ll be part of a medical or surgical team, and your work will involve direct interaction with patients.

You will use the very latest techniques and equipment to identify any abnormalities and help to restore body functions, such as problems with the heart, brain, lungs or hearing.


Physical Science: Medical physics and Clinical engineering:

In this area, you will work closely with other NHS clinical teams, making sure the equipment they use, such as renal dialysis machines, are functioning safely and effectively. You’ll also be responsible for developing new techniques and technology to measure what is happening in the body and to diagnose and treat disease. These might include different imaging techniques to explore or record the workings of the body. You might also develop techniques to design artificial limbs and body parts or improve facial reconstruction for those involved in accidents or born with disabilities.


Bioinformatics:

This is a rapidly evolving area of healthcare science that brings together computing, biology and medicine. Staff in clinical bioinformatics roles develop and improve methods for acquiring and using biological data to support healthcare delivery.


My Experiences as a Healthcare Scientist in Neurophysiology:


After studying Biology, Chemistry and Psychology A-levels, I went on to study Neuroscience at The University of Nottingham. I chose Neuroscience because I found the brain so interesting – and it was the perfect mix of my favourite A-level subjects. Towards the end of my degree, I wasn’t any closer to knowing what I wanted to do – I knew I didn’t want to work in a lab all day and wanted to do something with people. It wasn’t until, one day, someone came into my university to give a talk on the Scientist Training Programme that I was introduced to Healthcare Science, and Neurophysiology in particular.


Neurophysiology is the study of how the brain and nervous system work. We perform a range of electro-diagnostic tests to check patients for various neurological disorders. My specialist area is long-term EEG monitoring of brain activity for epilepsy – a disorder which causes people to have seizures. I’ve worked with everyone from premature babies to elderly patients in a variety of settings, leading on collecting the information necessary for their diagnosis and guiding medical teams on finding the correct treatment. My highlights have been working with young children and feeling that sense of reward and fulfilment when you manage to get them to cooperate with the investigation and reach one step closer to managing their condition, and in many cases also improving their quality of life. I’ve also spent time in brain surgery assisting surgeons to resect the part of the brain causing seizures, following my patients through the whole journey from their diagnosis to full recovery.


Working in Neurophysiology is a mixture of seeing patients on wards and in clinics, analysing complex data, and writing reports. You need to have excellent communication and inter-personal skills for working with a multi-disciplinary team of scientists, doctors, nurses and researchers. You must have good problem-solving skills and an eye for detail. You must always be willing to learn as science and technology evolves to provide the best quality care for your patients. Above all else, you need to be compassionate and kind to your patients as they move through potentially one of the most challenging phases of their life. 


In my Neurophysiology career, I’ve also had the opportunity to become involved in research, education, leadership and management. There are many options to further your development in Healthcare Science and a real need for us to grow our workforce to meet the evolving healthcare needs of our population. Alongside my clinical work, I’ve always been involved in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion work, recognising that we need to have a diverse healthcare science workforce that is representative and can meet the needs of the patients we serve, and an NHS culture which is truly inclusive, enabling all of its staff to thrive. I want to inspire young Black girls to see that they have a place in these careers, and that there are so many options available to them in science and healthcare.



 

You can find out more about healthcare science careers here:  https://www.healthcareers.nhs.uk/explore-roles/healthcare-science 

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