Workforce profile: Maisie Danson
Job title: Cardiac Physiologist
Organisation: Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (DBTH)

Words by Howard Briggs,  ‎Principal Clinical Physiologist (DBTH) 

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Whilst completing her degree at De Montfort Maisie crossed paths with a Neurophysiologist. During this chance encounter, Maisie learnt about the other career paths available in healthcare science.  After some additional research and a visit to the Cardiology department at her local hospital (Castle Hill) Maisie decided that she would like to pursue a career as a Cardiac Physiologist.

The Cardio-Respiratory Department at Doncaster Royal Infirmary had a Level 3 apprenticeship job advertised for which Maisie successfully applied. Relatively recent funding changes meant that, despite Maisie already holding a degree, she would still qualify for levy funding as this course had ‘significant new learning’.

Maisie was employed from September 2016 to undertake the Level 3 Apprenticeship as her potential and enthusiasm for the position of Healthcare Scientist was obvious. Additionally it was considered that the Level 3 Diploma in Clinical Healthcare Support would give her an excellent experience and grounding in the basic clinical skills and background knowledge needed to succeed in the Level 6 Healthcare Science degree  that was due to be launched the following year should that be something that Maisie wished to pursue.   

Level 3

The level 3 diploma, latterly superseded by the level 2 and level 4, was undertaken with Barnsley College. Whilst undertaking the level 3, Maisie learnt several clinical skills including how to perform and interpret 12 lead ECG’s and fit / download of Ambulatory ECG and Ambulatory BP monitors. This on the job learning was underpinned by the academic modules taught at the college (one day per month).

Equally as valuable as the academic and clinical skills she obtained in this year, was the opportunity to establish herself within the department and team, to see first-hand the day to day demands and rewards of being a Cardiac Physiologist and to embed herself fully in the NHS ethos and values. Maisie successful completed the Level 3 Apprenticeship in August 2017.

Level 6

Maisie was part of the inaugural cohort on the Level 6; Degree level apprenticeship undertaken with Sheffield Hallam University. Over the three years the 80% on the job training, combined with distance learning and block weeks have given Maisie every opportunity to develop and deepen her clinical skills and knowledge in her chosen field. Maisie recently graduated from the programme with a First Class honours degree. Now fully qualified, she is free to register as a Cardiac Physiologist and continue on with her career journey.

Maisie found many advantages in her pathway to qualification:

  • Completing a previous degree ensured that Maisie was well equipped to deal with the academic demands inherent in completing the full level 6 syllabus alongside a full time job with largely only remote support from the University.
  • Completing the level 3 consolidated her believe that this was indeed the correct career path for her and gave her a solid foundation of clinical skills on which to build for the level 6 degree.
  • Working full time gave her access to a wider variety of training and experiences than she might have managed if on placement. If an interesting case came up her colleagues would discuss this with her in the moment, thus ensuring she did not miss any spontaneous teaching opportunities. She was able to attend training courses and review meetings; giving context and further depth to her learning.  The flexibility provided by the apprenticeship ensured that Maisie was trained to the demands of the department and to her own pace.
  • Being employed by the department made her feel more part of the team; being held to the same standards of employment as her colleagues she quickly became familiar with what was demanded of her as an NHS employee, regarding trust policies and expectations Alongside receiving support Maisie was quickly able to support service delivery, this helped Maisie integrate into the team and increased her confidence and developed her professionally and personally. She was able to attend regular staff meetings, giving her an appreciation of wider departmental and trust issues.
  • The values and ethos of the NHS and the complimentary principles of good scientific practice are evident throughout the degree level apprenticeship, being embedded as they are within the End Point Assessment (EPA). Maisie achieved a distinction in the EPA demonstrating how well she understands and implements GSP in her everyday practice.
  • The financial benefits of the apprenticeship cannot be overlooked; Maisie would not have been able to self-fund the degree and would not have been able to study without an income. This is a common and recurring barrier to career progression within, and recruitment into, the Health Care Science community, a problem that apprenticeships and associate levy funding have gone a long way towards addressing.

Covid – An apprenticeship in unprecedented times

As the effects of Covid were felt throughout the NHS and academia so they were felt by Maisie. In her final year suddenly all was uncertain. Maisie watched as other students were removed from placement yet she continued to contribute in service and drive forward innovative new ways of working (Setting up drive-by ambulatory monitoring, and troubleshooting IT systems to name a few). Maisie was able to quickly adapt and respond to the many new requirements and demands that were made of her and indeed some of these experiences could be reflected upon in her University work, demonstrating many examples of GSP and contributing to her, now very differently organised, EPA.  

Although this has been a lengthy route to becoming fully qualified, each stage has had its advantages and has contributed to Maisie’s amazing accomplishment of achieving a 1st Class hons degree with a distinction in her EPA. Perhaps more importantly it has allowed Maisie every opportunity to develop as a rounded Healthcare Scientist with insights, experiences and relationships within her team and trust that could not been otherwise established.

Advantages for the Cardio-Respiratory Department at Doncaster & Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals

Recruitment into Cardiac Physiology has been difficult for many years.  Cardio-Respiratory at Doncaster & Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals has embraced all potential training routes; Full-Time PTP programme, Scientist Training Programme and PTP Equivalence. However the addition of the Degree Apprentice route enables us to develop lower grade staff that may not have seen university as an option for them, or use vacancies for this “grow your own” route.  We can recruit locally and hopefully retain them once qualified. We can embed the apprentices into our teams earlier, more effectively and broaden their clinical experience from the outset.