Healthcare careers in physiology

Did you know that being a doctor is just one of as many as 350 roles in healthcare?

A degree in physiology enables you to work in a range of healthcare roles. In the UK, you can work in the NHS, in a charity and even in partnerships between the NHS and a local authority department, such as social care. Healthcare science staff in hospitals and clinics are trained to work with specialist equipment. They play an important role in assessing the body system functions of patients and in testing for abnormalities. Many work as part of surgical teams providing critical care intervention and management. Hospitals and clinics rely on the expertise of healthcare physiologists working across all departments.

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Examples of roles in healthcare:

As a physiologist, your work will involve direct interaction with patients in a variety of roles, some of which are outlined below.

  • Medicine: a degree in physiology is a popular pathway into medicine.
  • Audiologists investigate hearing and balance dysfunction in patients, which may be symptoms of serious conditions.
  • Cardiac scientists investigate heart conditions, particularly in patients with chronic or congenital conditions.
  • Clinical perfusion scientists are part of surgical teams. They play essential roles in life-saving heart surgeries, such as setting up heart-lung by-pass systems.
  • Critical care scientists deliver care to critically ill patients, particularly in setting up specialist equipment and therapeutic devices such as renal therapy equipment and ventilators.
  • Gastrointestinal physiologists work with doctors specialising in gastroenterology and assist in diagnosing diseases of the digestive tract.
  • Neurophysiology is an area where scientists are specialist practitioners investigating the function of the nervous system to diagnose neurological disorders.
  • Ophthalmic and vision science is an area in which the study of the structure of the visual system may aid in the treatment of different disorders. As a scientist, you will provide essential diagnostic and management help for patients with these disorders.
  • Respiratory physiologists / sleep physiologists assess aspects of lung function and sleep disorders. Many start out as researchers in respiratory physiology
  • Urodynamic scientists diagnose and plan the treatment of patients with urinary-related conditions.
  • Vascular scientists investigate blood flow in patients affected by a range of conditions related to veins and arteries, such as stroke, cardiovascular disease, varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis among others.

More information is available on the NHS health careers website.

How do I get involved in healthcare?

Your physiology degree will set you up very well for entering the healthcare sciences. Following your degree, you can apply for the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP) and then progress onto the NHS Higher Specialist Training programme. Be aware that not all specialisms are available every year so it is essential to check the links above.

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