The healthcare science team in this area use their skills to develop methods of measuring what is happening in the body, devise new ways of diagnosing and treating disease, and ensure that equipment is functioning safely and effectively.
They support, develop and apply physical techniques such as ultrasound, radioactivity, radiation, magnetic resonance, electromagnetism and optical imaging to explore or record the workings of the body for diagnosis, monitoring and treatment.
Most healthcare science staff working in clinical engineering and medical physics work in hospitals and specialist departments. Some will work with patients in their own homes.
Biomedical engineering. Healthcare science staff in this area are involved in designing artificial body parts such as hip and knee joints, and in measuring walking characteristics to improve the function of artificial limbs and surgical corrections of deformities. Modern techniques such as keyhole and robotic surgery have been achieved with the support of biomechanical engineering.
Clinical measurement. In this field, leading-edge electronic and other techniques are pushing forward medical practice. Healthcare science staff work with clinicians in some of the most highly specialised branches of medicine, e.g. heart surgery and intensive care, to develop innovative techniques for diagnosing and treating disease, and quantifying physiological function.
Diagnostic radiology and MRI. Diagnostic imaging continues to be one of the most rapidly expanding areas in the NHS. Staff monitor and optimise the performance of imaging equipment and give advice on the specification and acceptance of new equipment. They develop and assess new techniques to ensure the best images are obtained with minimum exposure to radiation, and to extract additional functional information from 3-D and 4-D medical images.
Medical equipment management. Healthcare science staff working in this field ensure medical equipment is specified, procured, installed, used and maintained correctly and safely. This may involve managing substantial budgets for capital equipment replacement and maintenance, as well as the accurate configuration and calibration of safety critical medical equipment.
Medical electronics and instrumentation. Using state-of-the-art electronic and computing techniques, healthcare science staff design, develop, build and adapt specialised medical equipment. Examples include new life support and monitoring systems in intensive care, special baby care units, and equipment for improved surgical and anaesthetic techniques.
Medical illustration and clinical photography - photography, video, illustration and graphic design services to support patient care, teaching and research. Images are used to assist in patient diagnosis and treatment, as well as the design and production of patient information and other medical publications.
Nuclear medicine. The use of radioactive substances for diagnosis and therapy. Healthcare science staff may be engaged in manufacturing and administering radiolabelled pharmaceuticals to patients and then obtaining images and making measurements. They ensure that radioactive materials are purchased, used and disposed of safely and are involved in interpreting results and developing new procedures for both diagnosis and therapy.
Radiation safety physics. Healthcare scientists in this area play an essential role in the safe medical use of many different types of radiation, including X-rays, radioisotopes, lasers and ultraviolet radiation. They measure and calculate doses received by patients and staff, survey the working environment, and monitor equipment performance to ensure compliance with stringent regulations. They will often act as Radiation Protection Advisers to major NHS institutions, setting policy and implementing quality standards for the use of radiation.
Radiopharmacy. The manufacture and supply of radioactive medicinal products for use in nuclear medicine to support diagnosis and treatment.
Radiotherapy physics. The treatment of cancer with ionising radiation such as X-rays, electrons and protons. Healthcare science staff maintain the precision and accuracy of treatments by using advanced computer calculations of individual patient treatment plans. They also ensure that equipment is calibrated accurately and used safely. They develop new techniques to improve the effectiveness of radiotherapy treatments.
Reconstructive science. Healthcare science staff in this area, specialise in the prosthetic reconstruction and therapeutic managementof of patients needing corrective treatment due to malformation, cancer or trauma.
Rehabilitation engineering. Healthcare science staff work as part of the rehabilitation team to assess and respond to the individual needs of disabled people. They provide standard and custom-made assistive technology to help with communication and daily living, including special seating, wheelchairs, artificial limbs, electronic communicators and robotic aids.
Renal technology. Healthcare science staff are responsible for ensuring renal dialysis equipment is maintained, and that it works safely and efficiently. They work in hospitals and patients' homes, and train staff and patients in equipment use.
The pages in the menu on the left provide further details of these careers, and how to get started.
The routes into the many and varied healthcare science careers in the physical sciences and biomedical engineering areas of healthcare science have changed as a result of Modernising Scientific Careers (MSC).
Specifically, new routes are coming on stream to enter as a healthcare science assistant or associate; or through the undergraduate (Practitioner Training Programme) route - the new BSc Healthcare Science (in medical physics technology or clinical engineering) - which is now available at a number of universities; the graduate (Scientist Training Programme - in clinical engineering or medical physics) and in the future, consultant (Higher Specialist Scientific Training) levels.