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Dan Welsh - Trainee Clinical Scientist - NHS Lothian

Radiotherapy Physics

I have just started training in the specialism of radiotherapy physics after completing two years of introductory training across all areas of medical physics, which included studying for an MSc in Clinical Physics at the University of Glasgow.

I have recently commenced a permanent post within the Radiotherapy department in Edinburgh, having started my training as a supernumerary postgraduate trainee, funded by NES. I applied to the Scottish supernumerary training scheme after studying for an MPhys in Physics at the University of Manchester. I became interested in Medical Physics through studying modules on medical imaging and the applications of lasers in medicine, and carrying out my final year research project at a university research centre for positron emission tomography (PET) imaging. I wanted a career where I could use my scientific knowledge and skills to make a difference and contribute to maintaining and improving the standard of healthcare.

Joining the training scheme

My appllication was successful and I moved to Edinburgh to join the training scheme. The MSc element was first up, and taught the technical basis of all areas of medical physics, including radiation physics, imaging and physiological measurement. An important part of the course was a module on anatomy and physiology which was particularly interesting and different to what I was used to, coming from a physics background.

The majority of teaching took place in hospital departments so there was plenty of clinical observation and the opportunity to see things like equipment for real rather than just as  pictures on a lecture slide. The final aspect of the MSc was to carry out a research project. My project was about improving radiotherapy for prostate cancer and was conducted within the Edinburgh department in which I now work full time.

After the MSc is complete, the next part of the training scheme involves three clinical placements in different areas of medical physics. For me these were radiotherapy, ultrasound and nuclear medicine. The placements provide practical experience of work in each of the areas, applying the theoretical knowledge taught on the MSc. It was enjoyable to be a part of the team in each department, to get hands-on training with advanced equipment, and to apply scientific skills clinically through project work.

The training scheme also involves short acquaintanceships in other areas. One of these was two days at the South-East Mobility and Rehabilitation Technology (SMART) centre in Edinburgh. I found the exposure to a broad range of areas extremely interesting and beneficial to meet fellow scientists in other fields.

Having completed Part I training and passed the assessments, I now move on to the Part II specialism of IPEM training. This specialism involves on the job training for eighteen months, further developing my knowledge and skills, and building up a portfolio of evidence of practical work to show that I meet the competencies required for a HCPC registered clinical scientist in radiotherapy physics.

My training plan

My training plan will also address the components of the NES Common Core List of attributes for healthcare scientists across all areas. I also aim to attend NES early career courses on management and leadership, along with courses on scientific communication and research skills.  I think these will be useful in my everyday work and for my career in future. I hope also to present some of my work at national and international conferences.

I have enjoyed my time so far as a NES trainee. The opportunity to work in a wide range of areas has been an extremely interesting and valuable experience which I would recommend to anyone considering applying. I am delighted that the supernumerary traineeship has enabled me to succeed in getting a permanent substantive post and I am excited to continue my development as a healthcare scientist, and to make a real contribution to the support and improvement of the radiotherapy service for patients.