Clinical technologists make sure that the technology and equipment used to diagnose and treat patients in hospitals are well-maintained and monitored. Clinical technologists are sometimes also known as:
- medical technologists
- medical engineers
- healthcare science practitioners
Clinical technologists can specialise in physics or in engineering.
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
Starting your career
Choosing subjects at school
If you'd like to become a clinical technologist, useful subjects include:
- Engineering Science
- Design and Technology
- Computing Science
- Human Biology
Work placements and volunteering
You may find it helpful to get some experience of working in healthcare by doing a work placement. There may also be opportunities to volunteer. This could help you when applying to university, college or a new job with NHSScotland.
A Modern Apprenticeship could give you the skills, knowledge and work experience you need to work as a clinical technologist. Relevant Modern Apprenticeships include:
College and university
Most universities accept a wide range of qualifications, so you can apply from school or go 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. If you’re an adult with few or no qualifications you could get into higher education through the Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP). Many universities also provide access programmes to help you get the degree entry qualifications you need.
At university, you should try to complete a degree in:
Search for college or university courses on My World of Work.
There are two routes to becoming a clinical technologist. You could apply for the:
To become a clinical technologist, you’ll need to complete one of these formal schemes accredited by the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM).
Other career pathways
You could apply for a role as an assistant or associate practitioner. While in this role, you can then attend further education through day release to gain relevant qualifications.
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 diagnoses 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.
Useful skills for clinical technologists include:
- attention to detail
You'll also be expected to have the scientific and technical skills necessary for the role.
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
Did you know?
There are over 500 clinical technologists working in NHSScotland.
Learning and development
As a clinical technologist, you’re 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 Register of Clinical Technologists (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.
On entering a clinical technologist role in NHSScotland, you need to:
- apply for membership of Disclosure Scotland’s Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme
Once you’re fully trained, you can join the:
- Register of Clinical Technologists (RCT)
- Academy for Healthcare Science (AHCS) Practitioner Register
- Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM)
- Association of Renal Technologists (ART)
- Institute of Healthcare Engineering and Estate Management (IHEEM)