Careers in Healthcare S1 E7 Healthcare science : Medical physicist

Kate’s training to become a registered medical physicist with NHSScotland. In this episode of Careers in Healthcare, we talk about how Kate puts her high school Physics lessons to good use in hospitals to help staff and patients. Listen to her discuss how she became a trainee medical physicist and how you can be one too!


Kate loved Physics lessons at school, so she did a university degree in Physics at university and even worked in academic research for a while. However, what Kate really wanted was a public-facing role where she could use her knowledge and help people. She decided to apply for the Medical Physics Clinical Engineering Scheme.

The programme starts off with an MSc in Medical Physics, to make sure you know all about the field. In the second year, also known as the foundation year, you rotate around different specialisms in medical physics. Specialisms include diagnostic radiology, MRI, nuclear medicine and radiotherapy. You then choose one or two of these to focus on in your final year.

Kate explains that you need excellent communication skills as a medical physicist, because you’ll work in a multidisciplinary team with other healthcare professionals in lots of different roles. Working together means you’ll have to explain your research and investigations and collaborate to improve services.

As a specialist in radiation protection, Kate’s role is a mix of desk work and practical work. She might be completing a dose audit on an x-ray machine to make sure it complies with regulations or calculating how much shielding is needed so it's safe for people to work in and visit the radiology department.

Kate says being a female physicist can sometimes seem strange to people, but that this attitude is changing. She told us that lots of physicists are now women and that it’s great to represent women in her field.

Using lessons she learned as far back as high school to help staff and improve the patient experience is the most rewarding part of Kate’s role. She told us that there are so many routes into working in healthcare science in the NHS. You might already have a degree in Physics, or you might be finishing up your National 5s and be interested in doing an apprenticeship. There are lots of different routes into the healthcare science workforce in NHSScotland. If you want to learn more about how you can start your career journey in medical physics, read about how to become a clinical scientist in physical sciences.

We hope you enjoyed learning about Kate’s amazing work as a medical physicist in radiation protection. Make sure to tune in to our other episodes to find out more about different healthcare science roles in NHSScotland. If you’d like to read about NHSScotland careers, including those in healthcare science, explore our careers.