Clinical Physiology

Clinical Physiologists use specialist equipment to measure and monitor organ function and body systems, such as the respiratory, nervous and cardiac systems. The results from these tests are used to:

  • help diagnose disease
  • prepare treatment plans
  • measure the effectiveness of previous treatment

Roles in Clinical Physiology include:

  • Audiologist
  • Cardiac Physiologist
  • Clinical Perfusionist
  • Neurophysiologist
  • Respiratory Physiologist
  • Sleep Physiologist

Respiratory Physiologist Video

Watch our video of Shaun, a Respiratory Physiologist working in a busy hospital.

My name is Shaun and I'm a Respiratory Physiologist at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.

"Ok, big breath in and blow fast. Keep going, keep going, keep going...".

We do a variety of different tests, depending on what the doctors have asked for - lung capacity measurements, sometimes it's exercise testing, sometimes it's gas transfer, sometimes it's total lung capacity.

So, we use lots of different equipment, from spirometers, which are simple volume measuring devices, to more complex pieces of equipment that involve gas analysis and use of gas cylinders, to exercise equipment - exercise bikes [and] body plethysmographs.

You have to have an interest in physiology and science, I would say, and an interest in working with people, because that's quite important. It's not something we're just doing to the patients, the patients are heavily involved in the results we get.

I think the NHS is a great place for me to work, because there's lots of different things that are going on and you have access to a lot of different types of tests. You can contribute to a doctor's research or you can even  come up with your own research projects. So, there's always opportunities to develop professionally and that's what I like most about the job.

Clinical Physiologists work with patients in hospital clinics and departments or as part of a surgical team. Some work in the community, visiting patients in their homes or in schools.

Useful skills and abilities include:

  • an interest in medicine and patient care
  • high levels of accuracy and attention to detail
  • the ability to concentrate for long periods
  • the confidence to take responsibility for decisions
  • an enquiring mind and good problem solving skills
  • good communication skills
  • teamwork and leadership skills

There are a number of universities in the UK offering undergraduate degrees in subjects like:

  • Healthcare Science (Audiology)
  • Healthcare Science (Cardiac Physiology)
  • Healthcare Science (Neurophysiology)
  • Healthcare Science (Physiological Science)
  • Healthcare Science (Respiratory and Sleep Physiology)

You can find out more about these programmes and the application process on the UCAS website. Entry requirements can vary depending on the university.  

There are many opportunities to learn and develop as a Clinical Physiologist. You could specialise in a specific area or carry out research. As you gain more experience, you could move into full-time research or teaching.

Find out about all these learning and development opportunities on the NHS Education for Scotland (NES) website.