Out on a limb

5th November 2004 at 00:00
Frances Farrer looks ahead to Healthcare Science Awareness Week

The week after next (November 15-21) is Healthcare Science Awareness Week. It is designed to show pupils science career possibilities in the more than 45 professions working in the health service.

Visits by schools to healthcare facilities, often in hospitals, will be welcomed and professionals will visit schools. With widespread low motivation to study science, this is the sort of thing that could encourage students to continue.

There are three main areas of NHS work, beyond medicine and nursing: lLife sciences include histocompatibility (tissue matching), immunogenetics (essential to transplant surgery) and microbiology, the study of bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic organisms, vital to epidemic management.

lPhysiological scientists include clinical perfusionists, who operate the equipment that takes over organ function during surgery or deals with respiratory failure.

lClinical engineering and physical sciences include work with prosthetics and the reconstruction of bones after trauma or surgery.

Tours of hospital histology, haematology, and blood transfusion departments will be available and orthodontic technicians and maxillofacial technologists will be among the specialists to talk to.

Hospitals and clinics will offer displays on topics such as "What does a Clinical Biochemist Do?" Last year, Guys and St Thomas' Hospital Trust, London, offered career information from nine areas of healthcare science.

More than 200 attended.

Scientists who visit schools can bring equipment such as lung-function testing machinery and audiology equipment with them. Last year, Eckington School (a specialist engineering college), Derbyshire, was visited by 12 healthcare workers, who took 63 students through a 90-minute demonstration that included the extraction of artificial blood from an artificial arm.

Advanced skills teacher Chris Williams said: "Students were impressed by the practicality of it, it gave them a stimulus to go into the services.

Several wrote letters of thanks for the visit". Follow-up hospital tours were also arranged.

Foluke Ajayi is recruitment lead for Healthcare Scientists. She says some students have their course fees paid by the NHS and can get bursaries for books. "On the third year of the courses," she says, "some of them take up paid employment in a hospital setting before returning to complete their degree."

For more details: Email: nhshealthcarescientists@carlson-europe.com

Tel: 0845 60 60 655 www.nhscareers.nhs.uk

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