The NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP): An Interview with Louise – Ellie McFarlane

The NHS Scientist Training Programme is an extremely competitive postgraduate qualification programme for students wanting a career in healthcare science.


Louise, a fellow Lancaster BLS graduate, is now a first year on the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP) specialising in Cardiac Science and based in Northampton General Hospital in the East Midlands. She has kindly shared her experiences and advice for those who might be hoping to apply to the STP this year. Applications open on January 25th 2021.


  1. What made you want to join the STP?

Although I loved studying biomedicine, I didn’t enjoy the thought of being stuck in the lab as a career. Clinical physiology is perfect for me – using scientific knowledge to aid diagnosis and treatment of a patient. It also doesn’t rule out going into research in the future.

  1. What made you pick your specialism?

At university, my dissertation focused on cardiovascular disease risk in university employees. I really enjoyed the hands-on approach in the lab e.g. taking blood pressure, taking blood samples, measuring height and weight etc. As a result, I did some work experience in the Clinical Investigation Department in Lancaster Royal Infirmary. I observed cardiac physiologists perform echocardiograms (ultrasound scans of the heart) and analyse 24-hour ECG monitors. Here I decided that a clinical science job in cardiology was definitely for me!

  1. Describe an average day in your life on the STP.

I’m currently on my first-year cardiac rotation. Some days, I am in the Cardiac Investigation clinic. Patients come to this clinic for ECGs or to be fitted with a 24-hour heart monitor/blood pressure monitor. I also fit these monitors on patients in the ward if the doctor requests them. When these monitors are returned to the department, I analyse them – any significant result will be given to the doctor as it can indicate a patient needs further tests or a pacemaker implant.

On other days, I help out in the catheter laboratory. Here, patients undergo invasive diagnostic tests such as angiograms to see if there are any blockages in their hearts. I also help out during pacemaker fittings. I will learn more about this side of cardiac physiology when I am in my second year.


4.  What has been your favourite experience to date on the STP?

I was called to do an ECG on neonatal twins in the special care baby unit. Babies have much smaller bodies to work with and don’t keep still – it was extremely challenging but very rewarding.

5.  What would be your advice to students wanting to join the STP?

Know what you’re applying for, it’s hard work! Read around the job description and try to get work experience in the field if possible. Be prepared to move away to a new area for the training! I’ve moved 150 miles from home. It can be difficult at times but knowing I’m working towards my dream career helps with any homesickness. 

6.  What would be your top tip for students applying to the STP on the 25th of January?

Any experience is good experience – use it in your application! For example, I did work experience in audiology before deciding to apply for cardiac science. It meant that I understood the role of healthcare scientists in the NHS, so I discussed this in my application.


Louise has a great Instagram account that provides a great insight into what life is like on the STP. Her username is @becomingascientist.

You can find out more about applying to the STP on the National School of Healthcare Science website: