Alex Smith

Alex Smith is a Clinical Physiologist at the Doncaster and Bassetlaw Foundations Trust. Alex has agreed to answer a few questions about how essential the practical element to our course is to your career and in securing your first graduate job.

Tell us about your role as a Work Based Assessor for the University of Leeds. What do you do?

The role of a work based assessor is to facilitate and support the learning of the more practical aspects of the course. This mainly focuses on the skills required to perform the various invasive and non-invasive diagnostic tests however it also includes the development ‘soft skills’ such as communication, professional conduct and the prioritisation of patient centred care. Ultimately we try to help the students to become the physiologist of the future, colleagues that we look forward to working with and alongside.

In order to deliver this level of rounded development a clear structure and comprehensive support, the network needs to be in a place that binds the University, employer and student together. The University of Leeds is exceptional in maintaining and developing this essential infrastructure.

What can students expect to learn when on placement with you?

Year 1: The most important skill to learn in the first year is how to be a ‘Good NHS employee’. This may seem a rather vague concept but it encompasses skills that the student will use and develop throughout their entire career. At its heart is patient centred care, always prioritising patients’ needs and seeing each patient as an individual. Developing clear communication skills; suitable for a wide range of situations and always conducting themselves in a professional, caring and friendly manner. Learning when to ask for help and how to speak up when things could be improved. Other aspects include learning to trust in colleagues and becoming a valuable member of the team and finally how to deal with the unique and sometimes difficult situations that occur in a hospital setting. In addition to this students will learn how to perform 12 lead ECGs, spirometry and manual blood pressure (BP) readings.

Year 2: Often at our Bassetlaw site. This year focuses on Ambulatory BP and ECG fit and assisting in Maximal Exercise Stress Testing

Year 3: In addition to maintaining the skills acquired in previous years, Year 3 sees the students assisting in Coronary angiography, pacemaker implantation and ECG analysis. It is an intense year with much multidisciplinary team working.

What do you expect from our students when they are on placement in your Cardio-Respiratory Department?

I expect students to try their best, that’s it really: turn up on time, look smart and be engaged with your learning, appreciate that even as a student you are a member of a team that is integral to the patient’s experience.

Every student is as an individual with a different skill set, different previous experience and different personality.  Some skills will come easily to somewhere others will struggle but then find their strengths in a different area. I feel that as a Work Based Assessor it is my job to support and develop where the students are weakest and strive to push and stretch them where they are confident. They just need to be proactive in identifying those different areas, we can do the rest together.

How will our students benefit, when back in the classroom, from a placement at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Foundations Trust?

The content of the course ultimately is aimed towards producing cardiac physiologists that can do the job in the real world. The academic content is there to enhance, support and deepen the understanding of the physical processes involved in each of the diagnostic tests. Experience of these diagnostic tests in real life situations is imperative to fully contextualise classroom-based learning.

How will students benefit in their future careers from the time spent with you?

Our trust is committed to developing rounded, confident, competent professionals, who possess a wide range of practical and interpersonal skills and experience that hopefully extends beyond the course syllabus.  We see our students as we see our patients; individuals with unique needs, strengths and abilities and we hope to foster and encourage them to be exceptional physiologists of the future. 

What is your favourite part of being one of our Work Based Assessors?

I have been a Clinical Physiologist for 16 years now and still absolutely love my job; I enjoy seeing the same enthusiasm for the profession to develop in the students. I also love teaching, I firmly believe in the saying that ‘if you can’t explain something to a ten-year-old then you don’t understand it well enough yourself’ It’s therefore really important to me that if a student comes to me with a question I help them to find an answer that satisfies them, even if this means that we both end up looking at Google together! You should never stop learning and as a Work Based Assessor, you never will.

How easy is the commute to Doncaster?

Doncaster has good rail links and is close to the A1 and M1 for anyone with a car. On-site accommodation is available if required.

What is it like working at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Foundations Trust?

It’s like a family, we all have our roles, we have high standards and all support each other. Generally staff retention, development and moral are very good.

What is the town of Doncaster like?

Doncaster is a typical South Yorkshire town the people are very friendly and very down to earth. There are good leisure facilities at the Dome and there is a varied nightlife.