Claudia Hill, Physics with Chemistry (2016)

Degree – Physics with Chemistry (2:1)
Graduated
 - 2016
Current Employment – Trainee Clinical Scientist at University Hospital Southampton

What are your main responsibilities in your current job?

I am currently in training to become a state-registered clinical scientist specialising in radiotherapy.  The role of a physicist in radiotherapy is split between planning a patient’s treatment and servicing the treatment machine itself. The main responsibility is the treatment planning. This involves using computer software which models the behaviour of external beam radiation as it passes through the body. Physicists map beams onto CT scans and adjust their orientation, angle, and weighting in order to effectively treat a tumour volume whilst sparing any surrounding healthy tissue. The other part of my role includes regular quality assurance checks of the linear accelerators (linac) used for treatment. It is crucial that the output and alignment of the linac is as expected in order to deliver effective treatment.

Which skills are important for your job?

Communication skills are crucial to the role of a clinical scientist. A lot of the job involves liaising with oncologists, radiographers, and engineers to manage equipment and to produce the best outcome for patients. I also have worked closely with clinical scientists in other departments of medical physics (imaging and radiation protection) whose wide range of knowledge is invaluable when solving problems.

Good general physics knowledge is required for this job. Although training is provided for most specialist situations, a level of understanding is assumed. For example, I have recently been required to calculate shielding in a new X-ray room. Although the shielding calculations were new to me, it was assumed that I would understand the behaviour of X-rays and the resultant scatter.

What are the highlights of your job?

As a scientist in the NHS there is a large emphasis on continued professional development. This means that I am actively encouraged to expand my skill set, take on new responsibilities, and to pursue research interests. As part of this I am given a training budget which enables me to attend lectures, courses, and symposia across the country. It is great to work in a department which is encouraging in my development, and is willing to invest in my interests. During the first year of my training I completed rotations in Imaging with Ionising Radiation (Nuclear Medicine/CT/X-Ray), Imaging with Non-Ionising Radiation (UV/Lasers/Ultrasound/MRI), and Radiation Safety. The rotations were invaluable at giving me a wide breadth of experience within the hospital and opening up my opportunities to learn clinical skills.

How did you find your current job?

During my 2nd year of university I contacted a physicist at my local hospital to enquire about work experience, she explained what her job involved and how to become qualified.

Does your employer have a graduate recruitment scheme?

Currently, the only route to become a clinical scientist in the NHS is by completing the Scientist Training Programme (STP). This is a 3-year programme in which graduates with at least a 2:1 in a physics (or relevant) degree work full-time in a department to become competent in a specialism of their choice. As part of the scheme, trainees also undertake a fully funded Medical Physics masters degree part time.  Applications open in January each year and further information can be found using the link: http://www.nshcs.hee.nhs.uk/join-programme/nhs-scientist-training-programme