North Wales sixth formers get measure of career in medical physics

Sixth form students from North Wales schools have visited the Medical Physics dept, Glan Clwyd Hospital, learning about careers in the health service, using physics. Ysgol Glan Clwyd students, from left, Gwen Williams, Natasha Maitland-Davies, Matthew Baines, Iwan Stanyer with Llynn Bateman at the CT Scanner


High-flying sixth formers from North Wales have been getting the measure of a career in medical physics.

Science students from Abergele’s Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan, St Asaph’s Ysgol Glan Clwyd and Flint’s St Richard Gwyn Catholic High School were given an insight into the world of medical physics.

They attended an event at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd in Bodelwyddan which was organised by Julian MacDonald, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board’s head of radioisotope physics and clinical engineering.

Healthcare scientists working in medical physics apply physics and technical skills to the practice of medicine to help prevent, diagnose and treat many kinds of diseases and health conditions.

Ysgol Glan Clwyd student Matthew Baines, 17, of Dyserth, was impressed with what he saw during the visit.

He said: “It’s been really good and it gives us another career option to think about. The equipment and how it is used is amazing. I never realised just how much physics can be involved in treating disease.”

Fellow Ysgol Glan Clwyd student Iwan Stanyer, 17, of Rhyl, said: “I had no idea just how diverse the application of physics is within medicine.”

Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan student Darci Tyler, 18, of Abergele, said: “The visit to Ysbyty Glan Clwyd has really opened my mind to new career opportunities. It’s definitely given me something to think about.”

Fellow Ysgol Emrys ap Iwan student, Jack Huang, 16, also of Abergele, added: “There are real career opportunities within medical physics and, once I’ve been to university and hopefully got my degree, medical physics is something I’m going to have to carefully consider as a career option.”

Julian MacDonald was delighted by the enthusiastic response from the sixth formers.

He said: “I’m thrilled with how the visit went. It is the first time we have done this. The students were so switched on, mature and asked many pertinent and well thought questions.

“I certainly hope to be inviting schools along again in the future. Medical physics isn’t widely known about, or advertised as a career option, so we wanted to raise awareness of it and showcase its many facets.”

The event began with a short introduction and a brief careers video before students were split into groups for a tour around various departments so they could see various aspects of medical physics.

The students had the opportunity to visit radiotherapy and see how a linear accelerator works and the processes and planning behind the delivery of treatments to patients.

They also had the opportunity to see diagnostic imaging equipment such as CT scanners and learn how they are used. There was also a demonstration of biomedical equipment used by the NHS, such as mechanical ventilators and pulse oximetry, as well as seeing how ultrasound is used to assess arterial blood flood.

Finally, there was the opportunity to see a gamma camera in action and see some of the scans and information that can be obtained and how radioactive substances are used to treat disease.

Patrick Hill, the deputy director of medical physics at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, told students that the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board covered the whole of North Wales which has a population of more than 700,000 people.

He said: “The health board employs 17,000 staff in many different roles across the region, while medical physics has just 65 employees. Of those 65 around half are involved in radiation for diagnosis and treatment and half in clinical engineering and technology.

“Within medical physics we do a range of different things bringing together physics, information technology, mathematics and medicine. In effect we need to speak both languages.”

He added: “While we have lots of technologies at our disposal we are constantly looking at how we can do better, what we do well but importantly how to keep people safe.

“I’m delighted to be able to welcome students to the department and give them the opportunity to learn and see for themselves the work we do and the career opportunities available within medical physics.”

Ysgol Glan Clwyd teacher Steffan Tudor accompanied physics students from the school.

He said: “To give students the opportunity to tour the hospital’s physics departments is a brilliant idea. It’s been really informative and has given students the opportunity to see first-hand the application of physics at work.

“There are real career opportunities for students within medical physics, a discipline they may not have considered in the normal course of events.”

Martin Hughes, a physics teacher at Flint’s St Richard Gwyn Catholic High School, said: “This has been an amazing experience for students from all three schools.

“In fact I’d love to bring my year 10 students along so they can see how physics is applied in modern medicine. There is no doubt something like this would really inspire them.

“As for A-level students, this has been a wonderful opportunity to see for themselves how physics is used in modern medicine and the future career opportunities that are available once they have graduated.”

St Richard Gwyn Catholic High School student, Kane Povey, 16, added: “It’s been a very interesting visit and given me plenty to think about when it comes to future career opportunities.”