The Big Picture
Holly completed a BSc Physics at the University of Leeds before going on to become a Trainee Clinical Scientist at the Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, enrolled on the Science Training Programme (STP), where she has been since September 2022. Her main responsibility in this early stage of her program is to ensure that she meets all required competencies to complete her training.
“You do four rotations in your first year, and there’s around ten to twelve competencies for each rotation. So what you’ll do day to day is just kind of navigate to go and see those. It might be watching a treatment plan be created, or commissioning a new CT scanner – it could be anything really. And you just make sure you go and observe it, and then you’ll spend time writing about what you’ve seen and what you’ve learned.”
Completing the STP takes three years, and, alongside gaining practical experience, Holly will also finish the scheme with a Clinical Science Masters.
“There is quite a big university component, because you do a part time masters alongside the training scheme.”
Currently, Holly greatly enjoys the multi-disciplinary interactions in the STP and hopes to continue to work collaboratively with multiple staff in different specialties.
The Application Process
Holly had the opportunity to study many medical physics modules while at the University of Leeds, including a general medical imaging module, as well as separate modules each focusing on MRI, CT, and X-ray imaging. Holly attended a talk from a current STP student as part of one of these modules and became interested in the position, conducting her own research from then on. Medical physics appealed to Holly as she has always wanted a job with a lot of variation and the ability to help people with her work.
“The application process is very long, and it was really frustrating, actually, because you are waiting for really long periods of time. But it’s a really competitive scheme so it’s just part of the process. For me it was an initial situational judgement test and then from that you had to answer two long answer questions about your skills, and why you’d be good for the job, why you wanted the job, all that kind of stuff, and then if you passed that stage you got to interview.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Holly was unable to gain experience working in a hospital environment prior to beginning the STP. However, she did a summer internship developing lateral flow assay to detect colorectal cancer.
“It let me understand how a research group works and how to carry out research in a lab, so I was able to talk about that quite a lot in my application. What I also learned from applying was that any experience is useful, even if you’ve not got direct experience, and you’ve worked in a shop, or you’ve worked in a cafe, as long as you tailor it to what skills you’ve learned from that, and how you can apply that to the STP.”
Holly would also encourage undergraduates thinking of applying to the STP to network as much as they can with people involved in the programme, particularly through LinkedIn, as this will help you to get a better understanding of what the job role entails.
Dealing with Rejection
“Honestly, I lost count of how many things I applied to. I knew I wanted this job, but obviously I was trying to have a plan B. I can’t tell you how many jobs I got rejected from, and it was so disheartening because you kept spending all this time applying and then you would get rejected, but you just have to keep persevering because the right one will come for you.”
Due to the nature of the role and program, Holly was expecting to receive lots of training in her role, but the extent to which her training and development was prioritised surprised her.
“It’s better than what I expected to be honest. I think it’s quite rare to get paid to learn. They really are just focused on your learning. You’re there to learn and they want to help you as much as possible and allow you to see as much as possible.”
Throughout her degree, Holly never really liked lab days, and assumed herself to not be a practical person because of this. Since starting the STP however, Holly realised that the only thing missing from undergraduate labs was a wider sense of purpose.
“I absolutely dreaded lab days but at work it’s so different, because obviously it’s a real life situation, and it’s more interesting than a simulated lab in the University. I definitely would now say that I am a practical person, because I love doing the practical stuff at work. You also do get a good balance between physically going and doing something, and then sitting at your desk and doing some work on the computer. So it is a good split.”
Holly’s general advice to undergraduate students is…
“Try not to get disheartened, because I think even if it’s not in applying for jobs, even if it’s in assignments and things like that, if you get one bad mark it can feel like the end of the world. But then in the grand scheme of things that’s such a small component of your degree, and you’re not just defined by your degree. I think that’s something I kind of forgot. I think you just need to remember that you’ve got a lot more going for yourself than just a degree, and you are more than what you can write down on a piece of paper.”
Holly’s advice for someone considering medical physics is…
“Try and expose yourself as much as possible to the field, even if that’s just reading around current developments. So that was actually one of my interview questions, to talk about a current development in medical physics that I was excited about. There’s a few good YouTube channels as well like STP Time for Tea and STP Buddies. They do a lot of videos to help people who are interested in medical physics.”
The Next Step
After completing the three year training scheme and gaining the Clinical Science Masters degree, Holly will be a qualified clinical scientist and progress into band seven roles within the NHS.
“This is 100% something I want to do in the long term. Everybody is so lovely, and all that everybody wants to do is help. You have such a variation of things you do on the day to day. You’re helping people with the work that you’re doing, which is such a rewarding feeling as well. It’s exciting because you are the development of healthcare science, and you’re the future of healthcare science. So it’s really really exciting to be a part of that.”