My apprenticeship journey in Clinical Engineering by Owen Wiggins

Find out about Owen’s apprenticeship journey and his experiences so far.

What is your background?

Before starting my apprenticeship I was in the Sixth form at college, studying Biology, Psychology and English literature, an interesting and unlikely mix as when I picked them I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do after I finished college. I studied and still live in a small town near Wakefield in West Yorkshire where I grew up. One of the main things which prevented me from enjoying studying at sixth form was the pressure I was beginning to feel that I was simply a number there and not a person; I felt that this would likely be even worse at University which is run more like a business than a place of learning. I decided that I would focus my energy into looking for an apprenticeship as I felt that it would lead to a career and I would enjoy the hands on style of learning and receive a higher level of personal support if required. I also felt I would enjoy studying and working towards an apprenticeship rather than going to university and this would be beneficial for me. I have a large range of interests which helped me looking for something that I would enjoy and I knew that I wanted to do something that involve helping people and I didn’t want to be sitting down at a desk all day, which eliminates many potential roles.

Finding the Apprenticeship and the recruitment process

My parents have always fully supported me over any decisions that I have made regarding my future however, I think they had always expected me to attend University. I felt that I needed to convince them that an apprenticeship was right for me by finding an apprenticeship that offered recognised qualifications and a future career with prospects. When I found the HCS Level 4 medical engineering apprenticeship on NHS jobs it instantly stood out to me as I felt that it fitted my aspirations to make an impact and also to help others; it was this opportunity that I used to demonstrate to my parents that modern apprenticeships are a real alternative to going to University. I then set about applying for the role online and attended some of the career fairs where I knew the medical engineering team would be at, taking time to talk to the current apprentices and asked them what they did and how they would recommend that I set about applying. I applied in mid-February 2020 and whilst I was originally not confident about getting the role my hopes only diminished further when the world went into total shutdown at the end of March. Luckily for me I was one of the 60 or so candidates invited to attend the rescheduled assessment day, if I remember correctly this was on the 12th June.

The assessment process was one of the most rigorous I had experienced, this made it much more difficult to pass but I knew that it would lead to the best candidates being chosen. One of the things that struck me the most on the day was how focused the assessment was on teamwork and communication and not simply on who could answer the maths questions the fastest which was, in my opinion, the best way to select the strongest candidates and gave everyone an equal and fair chance of representing themselves in the best way possible. The interview was very similar in terms of how welcoming everyone was and I was truthfully very surprised that I had even got this far. If I am being honest the wait after the interview was the longest two days of my life and I experienced every emotion under the sun during this time.

However the wait was well worth it in the end because finding out that I had been given the job was easily the proudest day of my life and all of my family were really happy for me to be offered this opportunity as they knew how much it meant to me.

Starting work at the trust

I was expecting starting work within the trust to be very daunting and stressful and whilst it would be wrong to say that I never felt like that I must say it was a really comfortable experience for me overall. I think this is because all of the existing apprentices are very welcoming and understanding of my position. I am also very lucky to have a fantastic line manager and the support of all the clinical technologists who I trust and can ask for advice if required. What quickly began to surprise me were the different roles I would experience and all of the different equipment and regulations I will learn during my placements. This is great because it means that even if you don’t enjoy doing one job in a team you will likely enjoy working on another task or in another role in medical physics. As of writing this I have only been on one of my placements but I can honestly say that I am really enjoying it, feel settled and that I am learning a lot whilst being there.

I am lucky as in my current team more than half of the team members started out as apprentice medical engineers, much like I have, so they know my base of knowledge and understand that I may need them to go through something with me more than once, or if I simply do not understand something they take their time to explain the principle or applications of the tasks I undertake. It never fails to surprise me how patient everyone has been with me and I owe them a lot of thanks for this and how they have welcomed me into the team over the past few months. Overall I feel generally a lot more independent than I did at the start of the year and I am really proud to say that I know how to do some of the basics tasks in my team practically independently, such as assembling a Welch Allyn Connex mobile vital signs computerised spot monitor, that offers NIBP, Tympanic thermometry, and SPO2, and following asset registering it I configured it and carried out tests to ensure its operation, accuracy, safety and much more. I have really enjoyed carrying out practical tasks since joining the team as it gives me a sense of achievement, especially when I see equipment that I have worked on being returned to the wards to be used on patients. If any equipment that I have worked on is for a Covid-19 ward I really feel like I am doing my bit to aid the recovery of the patients and supporting the community and being a part of the larger hospital team during the Covid-19 pandemic.

How does what we do benefit the patient?

As I have mentioned many times throughout my case study I find real personal value in feeling that I am helping people, this is why I feel a real sense of pride in being able to work for the NHS, which I feel is the best healthcare provider in the world. The job that we do ensures directly that the patient has continued access to the best medical equipment that is performing to its optimum and in turn aids them in whatever way required. A clinical technologist also provides clinicians with equipment to accurately diagnose and treat patients in our care. We also strive to ensure that there is enough medical equipment to treat all of the patients, if we are not efficient at returning equipment to the clinical area there is a risk of the hospital getting potentially overwhelmed, there is a definite pressure to our roles. Working on medical equipment and in a clinical environment can present potential risks. We need to be aware of the policies and safety procedures when working on medical equipment which can present potential hazards or can be contaminated. We also need to follow the policies and procedures whilst working in a clinical area and at this time ensure we wear PPE and strictly follow the guidance to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and keep everyone safe. One wrong step could potentially pose a risk to me or the wellbeing of the patient who can be adversely affected by my actions and intervention, it is really important that we carry out our work with extreme care and attention.

Personal future goals

It is my initial goal to pick up as much knowledge from those around me and use this, along with completing the modules set by our training provider, to complete my current level 4 Healthcare Science diploma; in two years’ time (hopefully with flying colours). I can start to apply for substantive posts 18 months into my apprenticeship and hopefully secure a role in the team that I enjoy working in the most. On completion of the Level 4 apprenticeship it is my ambition to embark on the level 6 HCS Apprenticeship; continue my learning and gain the skills to carry out complex and advanced technical services and repairs on medical equipment. One day I hope to be the head of a team as I feel like I have great natural leadership skills and hope to pick up further knowledge necessary to lead a team in the coming years. Ultimately I would like to lead a long, happy and successful career in the trust.


Apprentice profile

Name: Owen Wiggins
Age: 19 years
Apprenticeship: 1st year Level 4 Healthcare Science Diploma Apprentice
Employer: Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust
Training Provider: Dudley College / Avensys Medical