Rebecca – Clinical scientist

If you enjoy science and engineering, want to help people on a daily basis and work in a hospital environment then read on. Maybe Rebecca’s job as a clinical scientist could be the ideal career for you!

What attracted you to this job?

I chose this career as it seemed a perfect combination of science/engineering and working with people. To be typically cliché I wanted to give something back, I want to help people. My passions in school were science and engineering so I found a career that would enable me to combine these enthusiasms. I now want to work towards continuing to bring new technologies into routine healthcare to aid diagnoses and treatment pathways.

What does your typical day involve?

A typical day may involve, one clinical session and one research session. One clinical session may include 2 to 3 patients at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and would involve a series of specialised tests that require analyse before I am able to write a report to the referring clinician to explain the results.

A typical research afternoon would involve recruiting and testing volunteers for a particular study before analysing the results. Currently I am involved in a caffeine related study where I am recruiting healthy volunteers to look at the auditory cortical responses with and without caffeine.

My current job responsibilities include performing tests on patients and research volunteers; analysing data and providing diagnoses for clinicians; interpreting data arising from studies and assessing potential consequences for future research/clinics. I also support the junior members of staff, which also includes some local teaching and assisting with projects for the student clinical scientists. I also try to ensure that expert knowledge is shared within the department by holding local research meetings.

What gives you the most job satisfaction?

Patient contact. The ability to help someone (even if it is only in the smallest way). And the research – having my own project to investigate. They can lead to the most interesting of conclusions and discussions.

What do your friends and family think about your job?

My friends and family think that my job is very different to most. They are all very interested in my work and some have even volunteered for studies so that they can get a better idea of what I do!

Tell us more about your environment in terms of work-life balance

I am very lucky to work with people who are not only my colleagues but my friends. I have a good work-life balance; my job is mainly Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm. There are times when you have to work a little harder (usually towards the end of research grants!) and there are times when you need to go to a conference to disseminate your work. However the best thing about conferences is that they are usually spread around the world and although you have to work for some of the time, you can make the most of your free time exploring new countries and cities. For example I have been fortunate enough to go to Boston (USA) and Vancouver (Canada), plus many more.

How did you get to where you are today?

When I was in school I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I enjoyed a wide range of subjects; however I decided to do Maths, Physics and English Literature for my A-Levels. After doing some work experience in a hospital I realised that I wanted to work with people but that I wanted to continue to learn about and help develop new equipment. So I did an engineering degree at The University of Liverpool (Medical Electronics and Instrumentation).

As part of my degree I decided to take a Year In Industry. My placement was at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary in the Medical Physics Department. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, but I wanted to learn more about research techniques. After my degree I decided to pursue research so I did a PhD at the University of Manchester. As part of my PhD I helped develop a new brain imaging device that was capable of imaging the electrophysiological changes in the brain. After my PhD I applied for my current job at the Royal Liverpool Hospital, where I now specialise in electrophysiology looking at both audiological and visual pathways.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of following your path?

To do this job you need to be caring, compassionate, patient and determined. You must have good communication skills, as well as a high level of scientific and mathematical knowledge.

Every day in my role is different; there are always challenges but the result is often its biggest reward. It is great to be involved in interesting research areas on the edge of new technological developments, as well as getting to meet new people every day coupled with the feeling that I am helping others.

How well is your job compensated? What is the starting salary for someone in your field, and how much can this be expected to rise?

If you start on the clinical scientist training scheme, during your training you are on NHS Band 6 (starting at £25,528 based on 2011-12). After you are state registered you can expect to be on NHS Band 7 (starting at £30,460 based on 2011-12). Throughout the career there are many different pathways you can take, and if you choose to become a senior scientist or manager within a department you can expect to be on NHS Band 8 (£38,851 to £80,810).

What kind of hobbies or extracurricular activities do you do to relax?

I am from the Lake District so I love the outdoors. I enjoy going for long walks in the country and cycling along the canal paths. I have recently taken up running and I hope to enter the Great North Run next year. One of my other passions is playing squash, however I usually play against my boyfriend who rarely lets me win!

Have there been any embarrassing moments?

I’m sure there have been many moments, particularly whilst I was training. Some of the more embarrassing moments involve my clinics with paediatrics. Doing these tests on small children is often difficult and may require some chocolate bribes (with parental consent). I remember one occasion after lots of crying I decided that chocolate buttons may help calm the child down. This appeared to work so I began reattaching all the leads, but the child became distressed again and unfortunately got themselves so worked up that the chocolate came back up, worse still I was unable to move out of the way fast enough!!