The Life of a Cardiac Physiology Student
By Katie Stote
Imagine being an undergraduate student, in your second year at university, operating technology which is crucial to a live operation happening on a real patient. As a second year undergraduate Cardiac Physiology student, that is just one of Kayleigh Slocombe’s day to day responsibilities while on placement at Derriford Hospital. As a humanities student, I had never even heard of ‘cardiac physiology’ before meeting Kayleigh. When Kayleigh begun to tell me about her course, specifically her role on placement at Derriford Hospital, it quickly became clear to me that this undergraduate course deserved more recognition. To find out more about the life of a Cardiac Physiology student at the University of Plymouth, Kayleigh was kind enough to sit down with me for an interview.
“Being on placement in my first year was quite different to second-year. In the first year, the placement was a lot shorter than second-year, so the main thing I was doing was ECG’s (a test which measures the electrical measure of your heart to check it is working correctly) and shadowing. Now in second year, there is a lot more responsibility and one-on-one time with the hospital staff. My responsibilities this year include: making sure the defibrillators in the Cath Lab (where tests and procedures regarding the heart, arteries and veins are conducted) are working, ensuring the emergency trolley is all stocked, including emergency temporary pacing boxes (so that if a patient’s heart stops beating we can put in a temporary pace maker), and I also make up pressure bags which are used to take pressure from inside the blood vessels and heart.”
“When the patient comes in, I put an ECG on them and a SATS probe to check their oxygen saturations. Throughout the procedure in the Cath Lab, I’ll be watching the screens, making sure nothing is going wrong, noting all the medications and equipment used, whilst one of the qualified cardiac physiologists observes me. Outside of this, we also lead a variety of other procedures to test heart physiology and function. These include equipping patients with monitors, which are like ECG’s but will stay on the patient for 24 hours or a week. When the patient brings their monitor back, I analyse the data to then hand on to the doctor. I am also responsible for calling the emergency arrest number if the doctors are unable to get a patient out of a cardiac arrest, to get another team down to help with the patient”.
Despite the struggle of leading a very different lifestyle to her friends whilst attending her placement, Kayleigh has not let this stop her from making the most out of her experience. She has even decided to base her dissertation research on a live trial which is starting at Derriford Hospital in July, which could reshape the future of stent implantation by creating more effective and efficient treatments for patients with narrow arteries. Kayleigh explained, “What’s good is that this does need researching, so my research will actually be useful to the hospital. It’s a good feeling that with the everchanging services that the Derriford Cardiology Ward offers, even as a student I can be a part of that and potentially make a difference.”
Finally, Kayleigh told me what inspires her about her course and her future career: “I think my course is a hidden gem, because it is a really specialised, specific course but at the same time you have loads of different pathways and opportunities you can take after graduation; you aren’t just tied down to one career path. As science and technology is advancing, cardiac physiology can only grow. Our specialism is technology and diagnostics, so with all of these technological developments it is so exciting, we have no idea where this area could grow from here.”