Postgraduate Preceptorship

One of the SCST Annual Update sections most relevant to PTP students was based around postgraduate preceptorship. Delivered by Sophie Blackman, of Boston Scientific and the SCST, the talk went through the updates regarding the assessment and accreditation that a newly qualified physiologist can obtain, in conjunction with the council. Sophie stated that she has been quite heavily involved in the production of this framework, and proceeded to outline its intricacies.

The preceptorship programme is relevant to PTP students, because it is aimed specifically at us once we are “let loose”, as it were, into clinical practice. The SCST has received a great deal of feedback from around the country, pertaining to the varying levels at which new healthcare scientists are emerging from their academic study and also feedback from students themselves, on what they feel they need by way of support from the governing body. I for one, can appreciate this; I’m terrified of graduating. I’m confident in my own skills, thus far, and whilst I don’t think that fear will ever go away, I think it’s beneficial for newly qualified HCS to have someone outside of their department that can help them make that transition from student to professional. This nationwide initiative will help to provide this support for the individual, but will also ensure there is an equitable workforce in practice.

The programme itself is based around the individual, and is likely to take anywhere from six months, to two years, based on proficiency. Much like in your current degrees (if you’re a student), the programme features competencies and case based discussions, but in this case, they are undertaken as you perform a job at which you are already doing. Upon “qualification” (this may seem like an odd word to use, given the fact that the practitioner is already qualified, but bear with me…), the student will receive a certificate displaying their confidence in a particular discipline, and that can not only demonstrate a willingness on the practitioner’s part to be the best that they can be, but it will further cement that person’s knowledge and skills base to aid them in their position, thereby helping them, to a point, to leave the student role behind them.

The implication was that if you, as a new HSP, want to make that leap to the STP programme, or follow a different career framework, then this accreditation will assist in identifying your individual fortes, and allow you to perhaps see what pathway you would be best suited to.

The full texts relevant to students are given below:

Preceptorship Framework

Preceptorship guidance for HSPs

For more information, visit the SCST preceptorship page:


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SCST National Update

Yesterday, on the 20th of November, Oli and I attended the SCST annual update meeting. It’s the first physiology conference I’ve attended that wasn’t tied to one specific trust (the last one I attended was the Royal United Hospital’s respiratory medicine conference), rather, it was applicable to and attended by cardiac scientists from across the four home nations. The day was packed with talks, networking opportunities and insight into the future of the science. Speakers hailed from a variety of professions and organisations, but all were entrenched in the science of cardiology and education.

Due to the long distance travel and Birmingham’s seemingly city-wide roadworks, Oli and I missed the introduction, but we were present for the rest of the day and we recorded and annotated everything else, so whilst I’ll provide an overview here, detailed breakdowns of everything relevant to PTP study will be supplied separately, as and when time and my coursework volume allows.

Of particular note is the information on preceptorship qualification, delivered by Sophie Blackman of SCST and Boston Scientific. I collared her after the event proper, and she kindly agreed to provide the literature pertaining to this, so as soon as it’s available, I’ll add it for you all to have a mosey over. It seems like a great opportunity for newly- qualified practitioners to become super confident in all aspects of their job, so I highly recommend that you read the contents when they’re available.

Dr Patricia Oakley of King’s College outlined the plans for a new variety of health clinic: the centre that isn’t home and isn’t a hospital, but the “place in the middle”. These will be networked, multidisciplinary centres, featuring social workers, scientists, psychiatrists, GP’s, etc, so cardiac physiologists will most likely be a necessity in their implementation. The whole session really drove home the emerging importance of this profession, but also the requirement of all of us, student and qualified, to ensure that the cardiac physiologist is recognised as being at the forefront of innovation so as not to be overlooked. It was mentioned more than once, that if we don’t put ourselves forward for emerging structures, someone else will.

Dr Oakley told of the need to reduce treatment variability by region. Her example was the treatment of amputation as a result of diabetes; Devon has, by far, the highest number of below-hip amputations when compared with the rest of the UK, due to the fact that the majority of Devonian surgeons trained under a surgeon who has a penchant for this level of removal. The advent of these networked clinics will reduce this level of variability and promote consistency across the home nations.

The president of the AHCS, Dr Brendan Cooper delivered the final talk of the day, discussing the future role of the healthcare scientist in wider healthcare and medicine, and the need for physiologist prescribing. I’ll provide  a detailed breakdown of this talk next, and shall hopefully post it in this coming week.



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Pacemaker Re-Use For The Developing World

To some of my experienced readers, the fact that pacemaker charities that recycle pacemakers exist may not be news at all, however if, like me, you had no idea, then hopefully this post will make for some heart-warming (sorry) reading.

I was interested in what happened to pacemakers when the user passed away, and after a quick internet search, I found that they were almost invariably stockpiled when cremation was requested, or buried with the deceased. Considering that there are over 34,000 pacing procedures performed in the UK alone, this seemed somewhat wasteful. Knowing that the average life of a standard pacemaker is currently anywhere between 6-10 years, I found it hard to believe that there would not be remaining battery life in the devices when they were no longer required.

Pacemaker research is advancing all the time; Medtronic released their “Micra” (pictured right), which is lead-less and no bigger than auntitled large multivitamin tablet, so with more advances, the price of a standard pacemaker is dropping. The current prices are still out of reach for the people who need them in many developing countries and that’s before the cost of the procedure and hospitals accommodation/ follow up care are considered.

A study at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, led by Dr Payman Zamani discovered that of 27 pacemakers taken from a mortuary stockpile, 8 had a remaining battery life of at least 4 years. This is obviously 8×4 years of alleviated symptoms that are going to waste in this one mortuary alone, and it was estimated in 2011 that more than 1 million people from the developing world died as a result of not having access to pacemakers, so health organisations began looking at ways to reduce this waste.

Companies such as Heartbeat International and Heart to Heart have been recycling pacemakers since as far back as 1994, but in 2013, Pace4Life, a UK company run by Chemistry graduate Balasundaram Lavan began a partnership with the NHS and other healthcare organisations, and morgues to recycle as many viable pacing devices as possible. It’s against EU legislation for recycled pacemakers to be used domestically, but it is well within the confines of European guidelines for them to be taken from consenting individuals and used outside of its boundaries

Pace4Life only accept devices with >70% battery life remaining and during the refurbishing process, all former patient data is erased, so confidentiality is in no way compromised. Their website at contains a list of studies and guidelines with which they work as well as patient, next of kin and mortuary donation documents to enable people to help the less fortunate gain access to potentially life-saving medical equipment.

I’ll let Lavan himself explain a bit more:



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Q. What Natural Phenomenon Can Speak In Any Language?

Echo_TTEA. An echo.

EDIT 17/9/15:

It has been brought to my attention that I didn’t word some of my last post particularly well. Upon looking this over, this is indeed the case.

It was not my intention to convey that healthcare scientists need not perform ECGs I intended to imply that whilst on my last placement, physiologists did not perform them, it was the responsibility of the A.T.O. hence, this is what led my mentor to say what they did regarding newly qualified and echo. This may not be the case across all trusts.

I neglected to include that due to the advanced nature of the practise of echocardiography, it is not featured in the PTP program. (This is good news for me and anyone else currently studying this degree, as I shudder to think of the extra workload that would be associated with it).

If in future I make an error such as this, let me know and I shall endeavour to rectify it.

Many thanks,



Having seen what trust-employed cardiac physiologists are required to do, it seems rather strange to me that echocardiography isn’t really taught in either the PTP or STP programmes. By all accounts, it’s touched upon in the final stretch of the STP pathway, but not in a comprehensive manner. Assistant Technical Officers perform the vast majority of ECGs in my trust, so it isn’t necessary for qualified healthcare scientists to be placed in that area. My mentor told me that her cardiology department needs echocardiographers and that the discipline is underinstructed by the universities. Bear in mind this is only because it isn’t a part of the syllabus as it’s not currently required by the framework of Modernising Scientific Careers.
As a result, the trust I have been stationed in has taken to rounding up the students and providing its own echo tutorials after the working day is finished.
This is a great idea and is beyond the call of duty for the department physiologists, but it doesn’t strike me as something that should fall to the trust to have to subsidise. Echo is an increasingly utilised skill and the one that hospitals need their physiologists to be proficient in. If it isn’t being taught at undergraduate or masters level, then trusts will have to pay for the training and overtime required to bring their staff up to speed with each new generation of practitioners.

Over the summer, my university has purchased an echocardiography unit, so I assume we’ll have a bit of a head start, but surely if the practice of echocardiography is so important in the profession, it’s something that should be mandatory to teach in the academic training. Perhaps this is something that will be factored into the equation as the PTP and STP courses continue to change over time.

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