Clinical technologists make sure that the technology and equipment used to diagnose and treat patients in hospitals are well-maintained and monitored.
Physics clinical technologists
In the NHS, physics clinical technologists work in these areas:
- radiation physics - monitoring the health and safety of workers, patients, the public and the environment from hazards arising from the medical use of ionising and non-ionising radiations
- radiotherapy physics - treatment planning, dose measurement and quality control of systems used in radiotherapy treatment
- nuclear medicine - working directly with patients preparing radioactive materials for treatments, imaging patients for diagnosis and disposing of waste material safely
Engineering clinical technologists
In the NHS, engineering clinical technologists work in these areas:
- medical engineering - managing, maintaining, calibrating and repairing complex medical devices across a wide range of clinical areas
- radiation engineering - servicing, repairing, calibrating and quality control of radiotherapy equipment such as x-ray treatment machines and ICT
- rehabilitation engineering - working with, servicing and repairing equipment such as mobility devices and prosthetics used to support patient recovery
- renal technology - making sure dialysis equipment is safe and effective for use in hospitals, clinics and in the community
Clinical technologists are sometimes known as medical technologists, medical engineers or healthcare science practitioners.
Starting your career
Choosing subjects at school
To become a clinical technologist, you need a good standard of education. Useful subjects include:
- Engineering Science
- Design and Technology
- Computing Science
- Human Biology
If you’re at school or thinking of changing career, doing a work placement could help you when applying to college, university or for a job in healthcare. You’ll learn new skills, improve your knowledge and discover what it’s like to work in the health service. Find out how to apply for work experience with the NHS.
College and university
Most universities accept a wide range of qualifications, giving you the option of applying directly from school or going to college first.
At college, you could do an HNC or HND to set you on the right path. These include:
Widening participation supports adult learners who want to go to university. The Scottish Widening Access Programme (SWAP) can help you get into higher education if you’re an adult with few or no qualifications. Many universities also provide access programmes to help you get the degree entry qualifications you need.
Two SWAP programmes that could provide the qualifications needed for university entry into a life sciences undergraduate programme are:
- Access to Health & Life Sciences
- Access to Engineering
- Access to Science, Technology & Mathematics (STEM)
Successful completion of the course could lead to a degree in a science or engineering subject at a university that participates in the SWAP partnership programme.
At university, you could complete either a general physics or engineering degree or even a specific bioengineering degree.
Becoming a clinical technologist
There are 2 common routes to becoming a clinical technologist in NHSScotland. Some clinical technologists attain an appropriate science or engineering degree.
Adults wishing to change or develop their existing career use the transferable experience route. They use previous science or engineering education and work experience to the role.
Both routes require further training on the job. There are formal clinical technologist training schemes developed for this purpose that are accredited by the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM).
Other routes may include applying for the role of assistant or associate practitioner and attending further education through day release to gain equivalent qualifications.
Search on My World of Work for related further and higher education courses. You should check specific entry requirements before applying.
As a clinical technologist, you will use your knowledge of physics or engineering to operate and monitor the safe use of hospital equipment. Your work will help patients receive accurate diagnosis and treatment. You’ll perform tests to check and fix complex medical equipment. Once you’ve completed this, you will also record the test results.
What you’ll do
Your main tasks include:
- maintaining, repairing, calibrating, monitoring and testing specialist equipment and medical devices to the required standard
- contributing to technical problem solving so that equipment and device issues are quickly and efficiently fixed
- monitoring and advising on safe working practices for other staff within the hospital environment
- providing training on the safe use of specialist equipment and medical devices to staff and at times, patients and carers
- keeping accurate and concise records of safety checks, repairs, tests and the condition of equipment and medical devices
- undertaking scans to help diagnose disease
- contributing to the planning of patient treatments
- advising on and arranging clinical trials for new products, to make sure they are suitable for their purpose
You could also be involved with patients and technical innovation that will have a direct benefit for them.
As well as scientific and technical skills, you will need these skills also:
- caring for people
- attention to detail
- decision-making under pressure
Who you’ll work with
You could work with:
- clinical scientists
- other allied health professionals
You could work in:
- hospital workshops and laboratories
- wards and clinics
- treatment and scanning departments
- patient homes
On entering a clinical technologist role in NHSScotland, you’ll need to:
- complete occupational health checks
- join the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme managed by Disclosure Scotland
Once working as a fully trained clinical technologist in NHSScotland, you’ll be eligible to:
- register with the Register of Clinical Technologists (RCT)
- register with the Academy for Healthcare Science (AHCS) Practitioner Register
Did you know?
There are over 500 clinical technologists working in NHSScotland.
Learning and development
Once qualified, you can also register with other professional bodies that support clinical technologists, including:
- Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM)
- Association of Renal Technologists (ART)
- Institute of Healthcare Engineering and Estate Management (IHEEM)
As a clinical technologist, you would be expected to undertake continuing professional development (CPD). This is in order to keep your knowledge and skills up to date. You must also do this to maintain your registration with the RCT. Your CPD should be varied and balanced. It can include:
- applying for research grants
- researching new devices
- post-qualification training courses
- receiving training on new equipment
Gaining qualifications and undertaking CPD will help your career prospects. As your career progresses, you could move into a more senior or management role, including leading your own team or controlling a budget.
There will be opportunities for you to teach or train current staff or the next generation of clinical technologists. With an MSc or PhD in a relevant subject, you could move into teaching.
As a registered clinical technologist, you will have opportunities to take on similar roles across the country and beyond. Some clinical technologists have been successful in moving into clinical scientist roles and into the medical device industry.
Some clinical technologists also undertake clinical academic research.