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A day in the life....

Catherine Townsend

So Catherine.....

What does a day in the life of a Cardiac Physiologist / Cardiac Scientist look like?

Cardiac physiologists and cardiac scientists are a fairly small and relatively unknown but very busy specialised staff group.  They perform and assist with a wide range of cardiology investigations depending on their specialism and level of training - these range from 12 lead ECG through extended cardiac rhythm monitoring/analysis,  24 hour blood pressure monitoring, exercise treadmill testing, pacemaker and device follow-up and all aspects of inpatient and outpatient echocardiography. They also work in the Cardiac Cath Lab where they are involved with a range of interventional cardiac procedures such as angiography, pacemaker and other device implants.   There is a small dedicated team of physiologists, nurses and radiographers who are part of the 24/7 on-call primary PCI team whose function is to treat patients with a heart attack out of hours.


How did you become a Cardiac Physiologist / Cardiac scientist?

Current training to become a cardiac physiologist or cardiac scientist involves undertaking either a BSc in Clinical Physiology or an MSc in Clinical Science.  However, you can also do 'on the job' training if you hold a  relevant degree, with the possibility of taking external examinations.  Senior staff also undertake professional body accreditation in their specialist fields, with organisations such as the British Society of Echocardiography or the British Heart Rhythm Society.


What do you enjoy most about your role?

Although I now almost exclusively work within and lead the imaging (echocardiography) service and am involved in a lot of the behind the scenes organisation and running of the service, the part of my job I enjoy the most is my specialised clinical role. I really enjoy running specialised valve clinics, following up patients with known heart valve disease or heart valve replacements, and also some of the more complex echo clinics that we run such as the cardiomyopathy clinics and complex valve patients.  Cardiomyopathy is disease of the heart muscle which makes it harder for your heart to pump blood to the rest of your body. Happy outcomes are a real joy: I recently came across a young patient who I saw acutely unwell some years ago who very nearly did not survive.  I saw him on one of my valve clinic lists and was delighted to see him looking very well and now with a young family, I was so happy to have been part of his initial diagnosis and treatment.  I am passionate about quality, training and service provision, and enjoy helping to develop trainees into independent, accredited operators.  Due to the highly varied roles within cardiac physiology /cardiac science, a day at work would look very different to my invasive, rhythm and device specialised colleagues.



What are the most challenging parts of your role?

Within imaging, I would say staying on top of demand is the biggest challenge. The team works incredibly hard to keep on top of the many echo requests that come through every day, while maintaining a high quality diagnostic service. On the clinical side, of course sometimes there are sad outcomes for our patients and this can be upsetting as often we follow patients up long term and do get to know them. Again, due to the varied roles within the department, my colleagues in other areas face different challenges, but we all enjoy our roles.


Do you enjoy working at Royal Berks?

Yes! I have worked here for 15 years. We have a great team of dedicated, highly skilled and fun colleagues who are a pleasure to work with.


What would you say to someone starting a job in cardiac science?

Go for it!  Check out entry routes and places to study.  Be prepared to study very hard.  Be prepared to work very hard and to exacting standards when qualified.  But also know that there is an interesting and constantly developing career ahead of you: medicine never stands still and as our understanding of the heart develops, and new treatments are deployed, your role will continually change and expand over the years.  In the 15 years I have worked in cardiology the changes have been enormous.  We have to adapt to the changing environment and be prepared to continually develop our own knowledge in line with new developments.




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    London Road,
    RG1 5AN
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    Tel: 0118 322 5111
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