What is a Clinical Technologist?
Medicine now uses cutting-edge technology in areas such as radiotherapy, bioengineering, dialysis, laser procedures, magnetic resonance imaging and ultrasound. Clinical technologists (also known as medical technologists) are responsible for maintaining, monitoring and sometimes operating the increasingly sophisticated equipment and instruments used to diagnose illness and to treat patients.
As a clinical technologist, you could work in one of a range of specialist areas. In nuclear medicine, you might be responsible for purifying radioactive materials, calculating the required dose and disposing of waste material safely. If your expertise is in electronic or mechanical engineering, you might be helping to design, construct and maintain specialist clinical equipment, sometimes for an entire hospital.
Most clinical technologists are based in hospital medical physics departments but they may work in almost any part of the hospital. Renal technologists visit kidney dialysis patients at home. You can expect to work closely with scientists and doctors, as new equipment, techniques and instruments are introduced. While some clinical technologists spend much of their time in the laboratory or workshop, many have contact with patients and all are involved in technical innovation that has a direct benefit for patients.
As well as your technical expertise, you need a strong sense of responsibility and meticulous attention to detail, even under pressure. Healthcare professionals rely on your skills to ensure that their equipment works safely and effectively. As you will sometimes come into direct contact with patients who may be frightened by the complex machinery, you must also be sympathetic and reassuring.
How to become a Clinical Technologist
Take 3 A Levels OR a Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher in science or maths (preferably including physics), or vocational qualifications to the same standard, which include science, engineering or maths.
Then take a vocational degree in clinical physics technology or clinical engineering technology, either full-time with hospital placements, or part-time whilst working as a clinical technologist in a hospital. Alternatively, take a science degree and look for routes that involve post-graduate qualification. The specialist vocational courses are called Practitioner Training Programmes and inolve over 50 weeks on work-based training in an NHS hospital.
Many hospitals prefer trainees to be at least 18 and mature entrants are particulary welcome. Those with further qualifications and experience may be able to use the accredited prior learning route to shorten the training period.
Click to view a leaflet with information about current PTP courses
Watch a video with current PTP course students
Click for UCAS Website for details of all UK based degrees
Clinical Technologists are graded according to seniority. In the lower grades, the work is more routine, while higher grade posts involve more decision-making, and responsibility for managing and training others. Progression through the grades is not automatic but is gained by applying for higher grade vacancies.
Details are available from hospital personnel departments, although smaller hospitals may not employ or train junior clinical technologists. Vacancies, especially lower grades, are often advertised in job centres and local papers. Higher grade jobs are increasingly advertised nationally, for example through IPEM's jobs online.
Please also see the NHS Careers webpage.
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