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Studying healthcare science

Studying the Practitioner Training Programme is one of the first steps to a career in healthcare science. Read on as University of Southampton student Georgie explains what to expect from the course, and where it can lead.

How did you get interested in healthcare science?

I’ve always wanted to work in an environment in which I can care for people, but being a doctor or nurse never completely appealed to me. Before university, I volunteered in a programme working with children with a learning disability, and one of the children that I worked with had a hearing impairment. This experience opened my eyes to the many different professions in the NHS other than just ‘doctor’ or ‘nurse’ that come under the title of Healthcare Sciences, particularly the course of study that I am now enrolled on: Healthcare Science (Audiology).

What attracted you to a career in healthcare science?

I was particularly attracted to the amount of patient contact that you get, as I really like the fact that you get to provide continuity of care and follow the progress of patients under your care. I also liked the balance between both theoretical and practical learning. The diverse range of work within the discipline also drew me in, as I was attracted to the fact that one day you could be working in adult rehabilitation, then paediatrics the next and a balance clinic the next. I’ve never been one for sitting and working at a desk, so the variety of work and diversity of patients cemented the fact that this is the career for me.

What’s life like as a PTP student?

It’s never boring, as the course is comprised of a variety of different modules, teaching styles and examination methods, meaning that it caters to everyone’s strengths. The course provides a good balance of contact hours and time for free individual learning. You not only gain theoretical knowledge, but also how to apply it in a practical situation, and different ways to approach treating different patients for their greatest benefit.

What sort of things have you studied so far?

So far I have studied the following modules:

  • Applied Anatomy, Physiology and Pathophysiology
  • Basic Neurosensory Assessment
  • Basic Physics, Acoustics, Optics and Instrumentation
  • Behavioural and Human Biological Sciences
  • Clinical Measurement and Training
  • Introduction to Rehabilitation and Disability
  • Physiological and Psychophysical Measurement
  • Professional Practice

Can you describe what life is like on placement?

In the first year I have been on an audiology placement, a neurophysiology placement and a vision sciences placement. These placements are designed as ‘taster placements’, to show students what life is like working in the three different disciplines. During my placements I shadowed healthcare practitioners and got valuable insight into what working life is like after qualification. I sat in on consultations and the practitioners explained all the procedures that they were carrying out and answered any questions I had. I also had the opportunity to practice some practical tasks that we had been taught in university on colleagues and consenting patients. This was a brilliant opportunity to increase my understanding of practical application and also boost my confidence.

What support do you get on placement?

On placement you have a supervisor within the department who is in charge of organising your timetable and is also your first point of contact for any queries. All my placement supervisors were extremely helpful and would go out of their way to help me with any queries. You also have support from all the university staff, particularly from the placement coordinator. After every placement, all students complete an evaluation which helps to ensure that future students benefit from the best possible placement experience.

How many people are on your course?

16. I like having a small course as it means that you quickly make friends and have a lot of time with the lecturers, as you’re not just lost in a massive lecture theatre, too intimidated to ask a question. It also means that you get a lot of practice time in practical sessions.

Did you have any concerns before starting?

I was slightly worried that I wouldn’t have the same background knowledge as other students. However, these concerns were quickly dispersed as I found most people were in the same boat. The course contains modules such as Basic Physics and Human Biology to ensure that everyone has the same basic knowledge.

What advice would you have for someone interested in studying the PTP?

My advice would be to go and do some work experience before applying. It will help you to see how important the work of healthcare scientists is and will make you stand out from other applicants.

What do you want to do after your PTP?

There are many different options for PTP graduates, from working in the NHS or private practice, to further academic study. Personally, I want to work in the NHS and complete the Scientist Training Programme (STP) as this would allow me to work and train at the same time.

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