University Tips Blog
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A headshot image of the author, Lynne Gordon

by Lynne Gordon

Senior Lecturer, Radiotherapy and Oncology at the University of Hertfordshire

posted on 10 Jul '20

How to support students interested in university courses and professions which are allied to medicine

What careers are available?

There are numerous careers to choose from, some more well known than others. Most of the professions allied to medicine require state registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). There are 15 professions regulated by the HCPC and each of these has a protected title for state registration. Students can find out what these are by using this page on the HCPC website.

Most of the professions are direct clinical roles, such as physiotherapists, radiographers and paramedics but others work in laboratory settings, such as clinical scientists.

How do students know if they are suitable for a particular career?

They should have a think about their personal attributes and do some background research. All roles require excellent communication skills above all else. They need to want to work with people, be caring and empathetic, treat colleagues and patients with dignity and respect and ensure everyone they meet is treated equally. These are the NHS core values that apply to all NHS workers.

Some professions might require students to have a particular aptitude for science and technology. For example, therapeutic radiography and diagnostic radiography require students to develop highly specialised technical skills in order to operate the equipment that is used to treat patients with cancer or take images of patients with a range of illnesses and conditions. For prosthetics, they may need to have a creative or artistic talent in order to re-create body parts such as eyes or limbs.

They should research a range of careers, especially those they know very little about. For example, therapeutic radiography and podiatry are two careers that are highly specialised and unique but because of this they are not well known. However, they offer fantastic vocational satisfaction and career prospects because of their uniqueness.

Image of a nurse treating a patient

What academic profile do students need to become an allied health professional?

This varies between different professions and at different universities but is typically likely to require the following:

- 5 GCSE grades at 4 or above, with English and Maths included in these. For some professions science would be required in that group of five.

- For level 3 qualifications (so BTEC or A level) we would expect to see a combined points total typically ranging from 96 – 120 points, depending on the profession. Some professions might specify a grade for a specific subject. e.g. a B in chemistry for people applying for dietetics. Some of the more technical professions (e.g. radiography) might not accept a health and social care BTEC. So they should always check with their chosen universities for their exact requirements.

How do students choose which university to go to?

Because the content of each course is regulated by the HCPC and each profession’s governing body, the actual course content will be similar regardless of which university a student chooses. It is the way the content is packaged and delivered that will vary. Not all universities will offer all health courses. For example, therapeutic radiography is such a specialised profession, it is currently offered by just 11 universities in the UK and securing a place can be very competitive. So students need to do background research to find out where they can study and then compare universities based on a range of attributes that will ultimately tell them where they think they will be most comfortable studying.

My top tips for students applying for health courses - please pass to students:

1. Make their personal statement specific for the career they are interested in. If they are not sure, they should write about this in their personal statement and why they have chosen to focus on the professions they are interested in.

2.Emphasise examples of where they have worked with people, as a member of a team, in a care setting etc. Although academic achievement is important, we are much more interested in ensuring they are a ‘people person’, so this needs to be demonstrated in applications and interviews.

3.Consider the NHS core values and give examples of how students can meet them. How they communicate in writing is as important as your verbal communication and body language cues.

4. Above all be passionate about wanting a career as an allied health professional.

What can students expect at university?

All allied health courses involve the usual academic learning at university combined with clinical practice learning. Therefore, a students timetable will be fuller than students on non-health courses. They will work very hard in both academic and clinical settings and from day one, we expect high levels of professionalism as this is expected in placement environments. We want students to have fun at university, but we also want them to have their future patients at the forefront of their mind throughout all their academic and social activities.

Whatever profession they choose, they will ultimately make a difference to many people.

Prefer to hear about university courses in the allied health professions as a video?

Would you prefer to watch a video rather than read the blog? Check out Lynne's UniTaster Tuesday video below.

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