Keyhole and robotic surgery, as well as cutting-edge joint replacements and implants, are among the latest techniques in healthcare.
More standard work involves management, development and repair of the equipment in hospitals. Rehabilitation engineering is another area within medical engineering and involves assistive technology, wheelchair and other specialist services.
Clinical Engineers are generally based in hospitals or work in industry. If you want to get a feel for what the work involves see our medical engineering careers film here.
As a clinical engineer, you would use physical and materials sciences, combined with manufacturing and computing skills, to help improve the diagnosis and treatment of disease, and also the rehabilitation of patients. You could be involved in full lifecycle management of technology, as well as designing and developing instruments or in research.Clinical engineers design, develop, support and manage medical devices They also have an important role in research and development.
You might be based in a large hospital department that covers a range of medical physics and engineering work, giving support to all the clinical units. Alternatively, you could be part of the scientific team in a rehabilitation unit, along with doctors, nurses and therapists. Most clinical engineers are involved in training staff in their own department and may also hold a university lectureship. Some are university based and more focused on biomedical engineering and research.
As well as your engineering training and skills, you must be able to work with patients and with a range of professional staff, including technicians and clinicians and with equipment manufacturers - so good communications skills and teamwork are important. You will also have to keep up to date with fast-moving scientific and medical research in your field and develop leadership and project management skills.
How to become a Clinical Engineer
This page relates exclusively to a clinical engineering career in the NHS. There are many other engineering based jobs in industry, research organisations and in universities, often linked to different fields of Bioengineering, of which Clinical Engineering is a subset.
The first step is to take at least 3 A Levels, including maths and physics, and preferably, another science and get good grades.
The second step is to take a full honours degree in medical, biomedical (preferably) electrical, electronic or mechanical engineering and aim to get at least a 2:1.
(Please note: If you intend to qualify later in your career as a Chartered Engineer you should preferably obtain an accredited engineering degree - an MEng for those currently entering higher education. Check the Engineering Council website for a list of accredited courses.)
Only then, as a third step, can you look at joining the NHS based clinical engineering training programme called STP Training (Scientists Training Programme) which has a limited number of training posts every year. They are funded by the Department of Health so you will receive a salary whilst you take an specialist MSc degree in Clinical Engineering and receive vocational training in a hospital department.
They are advertised around January each year for starting in the following September and you can get more information on the National School for Healthcare Science Website. (please note: even if you have an MEng as a first degree you still need to complete this accredited specialist MSc of the training scheme)
Linked to clinical engineering are careers as a Technologist and entry into the profession as an apprentice. For more information about becoming a technologist see here. Apprenticeships are increasingly common in the NHS. You will typically be linked to one hospital and work in a number of departments on a rotation during your training. In parallel you will be expected to attend courses and obtain qualifications like an NVQ in Equipment Management for example. To find an apprenticeship you can look locally or check out the Get In Go Far government site