Cardiac sciences

Cardiac science involves analysing known and suspected heart disease.

If you work in cardiac sciences, you’ll carry out crucial diagnostic, monitoring and analytical procedures for patients with known or suspected heart disease. You’ll also assist in interventional procedures.

Working life

In cardiac sciences, you’ll be assessing patients during what can be a distressing time in their lives.You’ll have a lot of direct patient contact, working with people of all ages, ranging from babies to the elderly.

Depending on your role, you could be carrying out a range of procedures in cardiac sciences including:

  • echocardiography - using ultrasound to obtain pictures of the heart to help diagnose  and monitor diseases that affect the structure and function of the heart including heart valves and muscle
  • pacemaker implantation and follow-up -  taking measurements and programming pacemaker devices to ensure they are functioning correctly when they are implanted and during long-term follow-up
  • exercise stress testing - closely monitoring a patient as they exercise (usually on a treadmill) to test if the blood vessels supplying the heart are working properly. Can be used as part of diagnosis or monitoring the response to treatment including surgery.

Roles in cardiac sciences

In cardiac sciences, there are various roles you could consider, including:

Healthcare science assistant or associate

As a healthcare science assistant or associate in cardiac sciences (such as a cardiographer) you’ll undertake routine tests for patients such as electrocardiograms (ECGs) and blood pressure measurement. The majority of your work involves working directly with patients.

Find out more about healthcare science assistants and associates.

Healthcare science practitioner

As a healthcare science practitioner in cardiac sciences, you’ll:

  • assess patients using diagnostic equipment
  • often provide technical reports of the tests you perform
  • probably be based in a hospital cardiology department but you might work in primary care

Your job will vary depending on the types of procedures carried out by the hospital in which you’re working, but will usually include:

  • ambulatory electrocardiography
  • ambulatory blood pressure measurement
  • providing technical support during pacemaker implantation and follow-up
  • helping with exercise stress testing
  • providing technical reports on the tests you perform

Clinical scientist

If you’re a clinical scientist in cardiac sciences, you’ll:

  • work at a more senior level
  • have a considerable amount of responsibility for performing more complex tests and interpreting the results of each test
  • be expected to teach and supervise other members of the team
  • often work in a management role with responsibility for resources (such as staff, budgets or equipment).

'I’m qualified to perform a range of diagnostic cardiac tests such as ECGs, exercise tolerance tests and ‘tilt’ tests, and 24 hour heart monitors.'

Samantha Thorn, trainee healthcare scientist

Read Samantha's story

Who will I work with?

You’ll work as part of a large team providing care to patients. This team includes anaesthetists, surgeons, healthcare science assistants and associates, cardiologists (doctors), specialist nurses (including theatre nurses), operating department practitioners and radiographers.

Want to learn more?

  • Most jobs in the NHS are covered by the Agenda for Change (AfC) pay scales. This pay system covers all staff except doctors, dentists and the most senior managers. In a support role such as a cardiographer or healthcare science assistant, you’ll typically start at AfC band 2 or 3. As a healthcare science practitioner, you’d usually start on band 5, with opportunities to progress to more senior positions. Trainee clinical scientists train at band 6 level, and qualified clinical scientists are generally appointed at band 7. With experience and further qualifications, including Higher Specialist Scientist Training, you could apply for posts up to band 9. Staff will usually work a standard 37.5 hours per week. They may work a shift pattern.

    Terms and conditions of service can vary for employers outside the NHS.

  • With further training or experience or both, you may be able to develop your career further and apply for vacancies in areas such as further specialisation, management, research, or teaching.

    Healthcare science staff often work at the forefront of research and innovation, so that patients are continually receiving the very best healthcare. For example, in cardiac science, healthcare science staff are developing non-invasive techniques for various cardiac procedures.

  • Job market

    In November 2018, there were 6,123 clinical scientists registered with the Health and Care Professions Council.

    The NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP) and Higher Specialist Scientist Training (HSST) attract many more applicants than there are places and so there is considerable competition for places.

    Finding and applying for jobs

    When you’re looking for job or apprenticeship vacancies, there are a number of sources you can use, depending on the type of work you’re seeking.

    Check vacancies carefully to be sure you can meet the requirements of the person specification before applying and to find out what the application process is. You may need to apply online or send a C.V. for example.

    For the STP and HSST there is an annual recruitment cycle and applications should be made through the National School for Healthcare Science website, where you can also find information about the programmes and the recruitment process.

    Key sources relevant to vacancies in the health sector:

    As well as these sources, you may find suitable vacancies in the health sector by contacting local employers directly, searching in local newspapers and by using the Universal Jobmatch tool.

    Find out more about applications and interviews.

    Volunteering is an excellent way of gaining experience (especially if you don’t have enough for a specific paid job you’re interested in) and also seeing whether you’re suited to a particular type of work. It’s also a great way to boost your confidence and you can give something back to the community.

    Find out more about volunteering and gaining experience.

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