Clinical or medical technologist in medical physics
Healthcare increasingly uses sophisticated equipment and instruments to diagnose illness and to treat patients.
Healthcare scientists working medical or clinical engineering are responsible for maintaining and servicing complex, specialised equipment used in the diagnosis and treatment of patients.
As a healthcare scientist working in medical physics or clinical engineering, you’ll usually be known as a clinical or medical technologist.
Hospitals use an increasingly wide range of cutting-edge technology in various areas, such as radiotherapy, bioengineering and laser procedures. There is an increasing demand for people with the correct medical physics knowledge to service, check the performance of, and gauge any environmental effects of this equipment.
As a clinical or medical technologist, you will often liaise with scientists and doctors, and have direct contact with patients.
You are likely to specialise in one of two areas:
- nuclear medicine - you’ll be responsible for preparing and purifying radioactive materials, calculating doses and safe disposal whilst measuring and testing equipment safety levels
- medical engineering - you'll usually have expertise in electronic or mechanical engineering. In this area, your work involves calibration, servicing and maintenance of specialised clinical equipment and may sometimes include the construction of equipment.
Some of the specific roles you could work in as a medical technologist include:
- critical care technologist
- medical physics technologist
- nuclear medicine technologist
- radiotherapy technologist
- rehabilitation engineer
- renal dialysis technologist
- technologist in equipment management
- vascular technologist
Critical care technologist - providing operational and technical support to general and specialist intensive care or high dependency units, especially with equipment to maintain circulation, respiration and renal support function. You’ll often operate as part of a multidisciplinary clinical team. Read more about critical care science.
Medical physics technologist - assisting clinical and scientific staff in the construction of medical devices - this can involve mechanical, electronic and computing design procedures. You may also carry out calibration and quality assurance tests of x-ray and other electro-medical equipment.
Nuclear medicine technologist - using radioactive pharmaceuticals in diagnosis and therapy. You would administer radioactive agents, and image their distribution using gamma cameras. You’d also perform laboratory tests and administer routine therapeutic doses of radioactive iodine and monitor the safe handling of radioactive materials. Read more about healthcare scientists working in nuclear medicine.
Radiotherapy technologist - performing quality control on radiotherapy dosimetry equipment and treatment units, such as linear accelerators and brachytherapy equipment, and computing radiation treatment plans. You may also maintain and service radiation therapy equipment and construct patient fixation devices. Read more about radiation safety physics.
Rehabilitation engineer - working with the rehabilitation team to provide bio-mechanical assessment, monitoring of patient recovery and the custom manufacture of aids such as wheelchairs and speech synthesisers for individual patients. Read more about rehabilitation engineering.
Renal dialysis technologist - responsible for the safe and efficient working of renal dialysis equipment (haemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, and water treatment) both in hospital and at the patient’s home. The training for these positions is on the job and you’d usually need a background in electronics. Read more about renal technology.
Technologist in equipment management - maintaining and servicing electro-medical equipment, ensuring both performance and safety. While the more sophisticated equipment is installed in acute hospitals, you’d also support equipment in primary care. Read more about medical device risk management and governance.
Vascular technologist - performing and interpreting non-invasive diagnostic studies on patients with arterial and venous disease. These studies include ultrasound imaging and blood-flow waveform analysis, and blood pressure measurement at rest and after exercise. You’d also carry out vascular measurement during surgery. Read more about vascular science.
Want to learn more?
- Find out more about the entry requirements and skills required to enter a career in clinical or medical technology in medical physics
- Find out more about the training you’ll receive for a career in clinical or medical technology in medical physics
- Pay and conditions Expand / Collapse
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. As a healthcare scientist working in clinical or medical technology, you may earn a salary between bands 5 and 9, depending on the role and level of responsibility. So for example, 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, 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.
- Where the role can lead Expand / Collapse
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.
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.
- Job market and vacancies Expand / Collapse
In February 2015, there were approximately 5,200 clinical scientists registered with the Health and Care Professions Council.
The NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP) attracts many more applicants than there are places and so there is considerable competition for places.
Finding and applying for jobs
Where positions for trainee clinical or medical technologists still exist, these will usually be advertised on the NHS Jobs website or in the local press and job centres.
Applications for full-time BSc healthcare science courses need to be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).
Find a list of universities accredited to run the BSc (Hons) healthcare science courses using our course finder.
When you’re looking for job vacancies or training places, 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 CV for example.
For the STP there is an annual recruitment cycle. Applications usually open in early January for the intake in the following autumn and should be made through the National School of Healthcare Science's website, where you can also find information about the programmes and the recruitment process.
Key sources relevant to vacancies in the health sector:
- Vacancies in organisations delivering NHS healthcare can be found on the NHS Jobs website.
- Vacancies in local government can be found on the Local Government Jobs website and the Jobs Go Public website.
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.
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 of 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.
- Further information Expand / Collapse
For further information about working and training in clinical/medical technology, please contact:
- Academy for Healthcare Science
- European Dialysis and Transplant Nurses Association
- Health and Care Professions Council
- Institution of Physics and Engineering in Medicine
- National School of Healthcare Science
- The British Nuclear Medicine Society
- The British Nuclear Medicine Society (careers website)