20 June 2017
'Healthcare Science? What's that?' is a question I encounter on a regular basis. So here's the answer to that, and other questions I'm often asked.
Healthcare Science (Physiological Sciences) can be done either as a degree, or through other pathways such as the Scientific Training Practitioner programme or the new Apprenticeship scheme. It tends to go under the name of 'clinical physiology' and various combinations of that. You may also get called a 'technician' (but some of us do not like this term it would seem).
I feel as though it's one of those physiological professions that just works away quietly in the background, and the general public and some other health professionals remain oblivious. I own up to this.
Have you ever had an electrocardiogram (ECG)? Or maybe an echocardiogram? Perhaps you've had spirometry done or even full body plethysmography. Another example would be an electroencephalogram (EEG) if your brain is your main complaint. Point aside, all of these tests and many more are performed by a clinical physiologist.
Healthcare Science ultimately leads to a qualification as a Cardiac or a Respiratory or Sleep Physiologist at the end of the degree. At ARU, you are given the option to specialise in cardiac or respiratory physiology at the end of your first year. After qualifying, you can do further training to specialise in a specific area of your chosen speciality. For example, as a cardiac physiologist I can specialise in cardiac pacing or echocardiography (and then train even further to become a paediatric specialist should I wish). Career progression is available as you can become a chief physiologist, head of department and even a consultant physiologist!
Hospital or caring based work experience is definitely advantageous as it will get you familiar with the environment and also how to communicate with patients. There is no specific type of experience stated on the entry requirements but I strongly recommend trying to experience working in a hospital for at least one day. Your experiences can then be discussed in your interview to show how you’ve prepared for your future career.
In your first year you are assigned four different placements in the areas of Cardiac, Respiratory, Vascular and Sleep Physiology. You attend placements in blocks of one or four weeks depending on the area (cardiology and respiratory are month long placements). I see first year placements as a time for the respective departments to try and interest you as much as possible in their area. If you hear anything interesting do not hesitate to try and observe it! I’ve seen and done many things that are not stated in the portfolio! You will do 37.5 hours per week on placement in line with the NHS full-time hours.
For placements you have to wear a uniform issued by the university consisting of a tunic and trousers and smart black shoes. I highly recommend investing in a good pair as you will be on your feet a lot.
A portfolio is the document that you are given to guide you through your placements each year. You are responsible for making sure that everything is completed at the end of the year so having a plan written out with your mentor is a good way to ensure this happens. The portfolio is a place to document your experiences and practical skills but also your placement hours. It is the most important guide for your degree.
A practice educator is a person who helps to organise and deliver your learning experiences whilst on placement. They are likely to provide you with a timetable for your placement weeks and also organise any extra experiences you may wish to undertake. This could also be done in line with being a mentor.
After your first year placements you are given the option of choosing between Respiratory and Cardiac Physiology for the remaining two years. You will do 15 weeks in your chosen area in Year 2 and 25 weeks in Year 3 alongside specialised modules at university. This splits the year group into two groups however there are also generalised modules so you will still get to see the other people in your year.
ARU Healthcare Science (Physiological Sciences) BSc course page