NHS Careers > Explore by career > Healthcare science > Careers in healthcare science > Careers in physiological sciences > Cardiac sciences

Cardiac sciences

Healthcare science staff working in cardiac sciences carry out crucial diagnostic, monitoring and analytical procedures for patients not only with known or suspected heart disease - ranging from babies to the elderly. They also assist in interventional procedures.

Due to the very nature of this area of healthcare science, staff working in cardiac sciences will have a lot of direct patient contact, and will often work as part of a large team providing patient care to patients. 

This team includes anaesthetists, surgeons, healthcare science assistants and associates, cardiologists (doctors), specialist nurses (including theatre nurses), operating department practitioners and radiographers.

Healthcare science staff working in cardiac sciences assess patients during what can be a distressing time in their lives. They often work with patients who are unwilling or unable to co-operate and so excellent communication skills and a calm and confident but sympathetic approach is required to achieve an appropriate outcome for the patient.

Procedures carried out in cardiac sciences include: 

  • echocardiography - using ultrasound to obtain pictures of the heart to help diagnose  and monitor diseases that affect the structure and function of the heart including heart valves and/or muscle
  • pacemaker implantation and follow-up -  taking measurements and programming pacemaker devices to ensure they are functioning correctly when they are implanted and during long term follow up
  • exercise stress testing - closely monitoring a patient as they exercise (usually on a treadmill) to test if the blood vessels supplying the heart are working properly. Can be used as part of diagnosis or monitoring the response to treatment including surgery.  

Healthcare science assistants and associates in cardiac sciences such as cardiographers, will undertake routine tests for patients such as electrocardiograms (ECGs) and blood pressure measurement. The majority of their work involves working directly with patients.  

Healthcare science practitioners in cardiac sciences assess patients using diagnostic equipment and often provide technical reports of the tests they perform. They are likely to be based in a hospital cardiology department but some may work in primary care. Their job will vary depending on the types of procedures carried out by the hospital but will usually include ambulatory electrocardiography or ambulatory blood pressure measurement or providing technical support during pacemaker implantation and follow up. They also help with exercise stress testing. They will provide technical reports on the tests they perform and need excellent communication skills to be able to explain each test to a patients and answer questions.

Healthcare scientists in cardiac sciences work at a more senior level and will have a considerable amount of responsibility for performing more complex tests and interpreting the results of each test. They will be expected to teach and supervise other members of the team and will often work in a management role with responsibility for resources (such as staff, budgets or equipment). They need good leadership skills and must be able to use their initiative within the remit of their job role.

Healthcare science staff often work at the forefront of research and innovation, so that patients are continually receiving the very best healthcare. For example, in cardiac science, healthcare science staff are developing non-invasive techniques for various cardiac procedures.

Entry points and requirements

There are four entry points into this area of work.

  • with GCSEs/equivalent qualifications at levels 2 or 3 leading to entry at healthcare science associate/assistant level.  Cardiographers do not usually require formal entry
  • as a healthcare science practitioner through the NHS Practitioner Training Programme (PTP) by completing an accredited BSc degree in Healthcare Science (Cardiac Physiology). You will typically need at least 2 if not three A2/A levels including science subjects and a good spread of GCSEs at A-C grade. Alternative/equivalent qualifications may be accepted by some universities, but you are advised to check with each university (or visit their website) before making an application.
  • as a healthcare scientist, after a relevant degree (at a minimum of a 2:1 classification or a 2:2 with appropriate postgraduate qualifications), by applying for a place on the graduate-entry NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP), specialising in cardiac sciences.
  • As a consultant healthcare scientist, after gaining postgraduate qualifications and/or considerable relevant experience through Higher Specialist Scientific Training (HSST).  

     

To work in cardiac science you will need effective communication and team working skills and have good interpersonal skills as this is a patient facing role at all levels.

You will also need to be confident with technology and systems/processes.

Training and education programmes

Your training and education will depend on the level at which you are working.

  • Trainee cardiographers are given mostly on-the-job training, starting with general safety instructions and how the job role fits in the day to day working of the hospital. Trainees then move on to specialised individual training. Certificates of Competence can be awarded for the safe performance of various duties, these will help if you want to work in a scientific entry-level role in another hospital. Cardiographers are encouraged to become enrolled members of the Society for Cardiological Science and Technology and undertake the Certificate in Electrocardiography Examination.
  • Once in post, healthcare science associates/assistants will work towards relevant healthcare science qualifications dependant upon the job role. These could include QCF/NVQs and foundation degrees (or equivalent) while they are working. These qualifications are underpinned by an awards and qualifications framework.
  • To enter via the NHS Practitioner Training Programme (PTP) you will need to take a full-time (usually 3-year) accredited integrated BSc degree in healthcare science (cardiac physiology) at university. At least 50 weeks of work-place based training in the NHS is included in these programmes. For the most up to date list of accredited BSc Healthcare Science degrees, please use our coursefinder or visit the NHS Networks website. Applications for full-time courses are made through UCAS. Once qualified, there are opportunities for further development.
  • Graduates entering the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP) will be employed in a fixed-term, salaried training post and will study towards a relevant masters degree qualification in cardiac science. The are likely to be opportunities to gain further qualifications and/or expertise.
  • Those entering Higher Specialist Scientific Training (HSST) will study towards doctoral level qualifications.

All of the above programmes are supported by the development of workplace-based assessment tools, assessment of equivalent learning and the development of academic careers.

Registration

Many healthcare science roles require registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). For those parts of the workforce not regulated by HCPC, professional voluntary registers are in operation.

For registration as a clinical scientist individuals must hold an Academy for Healthcare Science (AHCS) Certificate of Attainment granted upon completion of the MSC Scientist Training Programme or AHCS Certificate of Equivalence.  

You can find out more about the Academy's Certificates on its website:  www.ahcs.ac.uk

Please check individual job vacancy details for information when applying.

Pay

For information about pay for staff working in healthcare science, please click here.

Further information

For further information about a career in cardiac physiology please contact:

Society for Cardiological Science and Technology

Executive Business Support (EBS)
City Wharf
Davidson Road
Lichfield
Staffordshire
WS14 9DZ

Tel: 0845 838 6037
Fax 0121 355 2420
Email: admin@scst.org.uk
Website: www.scst.org.uk