This week we spoke to Jodie Hampel, senior clinical scientist in radiation protection and imaging physics. Jodie is one of four colleagues at our Trust who have secured places on a prestigious leadership programme aimed at female healthcare scientists.
Lives: In East Hanningfield, with husband Nathan, 30, and their puppy, Riley.
And: Jodie spends her Saturdays running a choir for local children in Chelmsford.
Tell us more about your career and what led you into healthcare science
When I was young I really hated maths and science, it was only at secondary school that I got into it as I had an inspiring teacher who really made it click for me.
I did physics at the University of Surrey as I was interested in it, though I didn’t realise all the healthcare science roles there are in the NHS. I thought it would give me opportunities as not as many people want to do it.
I started to learn more about using physics in healthcare when I did a research year at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington. That was when I realised I wanted to work in a hospital, so when I finished university I applied to the NHS Scientist Training Programme.
It was really competitive and I had the weirdest interview experience ever. It was set up like speed dating where all candidates were in the room and initially sat with their back to the interviewer, then a bell rang and you turned round to be interviewed. There were four stations and you spent ten minutes at each. It was surreal.
You were then ranked and offered a place depending on your scores. It was quite brutal.
I was surprised and excited when I got a place and I trained all over London as part of the North London Consortium before I decided to specialise in diagnostic radiology and radiation safety. I came to our Trust to complete my training in January 2015, getting a full-time post in 2016.
What does your role involve?
I’m responsible for radiation safety for our staff and patients. There’s always a risk with exposure to radiation, so I try to keep the dose as low as possible. I check our machines to ensure they’re safe and working properly, look at optimising our equipment and procedures and carry out risk assessments.
I also learn all the radiation legislation to ensure we’re compliant, update our policy and procedures and carry out staff training.
There’s no typical day, I can be working on our x-ray machines, customising radiation procedures for unusual cases, or teaching people how to detect radiation and protect themselves and our patients in the event of a major contamination incident. I also work closely with our Nuclear Medicine team which injects radiation into our patients to help with diagnostics.
We hear you did an interesting project as part of your training at our Trust…
For my MSc I did a project on imaging paediatric patients who need lots of x-rays due to suspected physical abuse. It’s a sensitive subject and I wanted to see what I could do to make the process as simple as possible.
I was passionate about choosing an area where I could have the most benefit. Children are more susceptible to radiation and those who have to undergo this procedure need 35 x-rays in one go. I helped to optimise part of this process by adjusting the way we produced the x-rays so we could get better quality images with the same dose of radiation. I also streamlined our radiology policy to make sure that we were up-to-date with the gold-standard national guidance.
Tell us more about the leadership programme
It’s run by the Office of the Chief Scientific Officer and Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) and aims to develop women in healthcare science.
All participants complete their own project which should have a positive impact on the profession. I want to raise our profile and relaunch a forum in our Trust for healthcare scientists.
It was interesting that the four of us chosen from our Trust didn’t all know each other before, so it’s been great to bring us together. We’ve already learned so much from each other which is leading to lots of opportunities, it’s really exciting.
People don’t realise that healthcare scientists make up five per cent of the NHS workforce, or know who we are. During my research I did an intranet poll to see if people knew of or worked with a healthcare scientist, only a quarter who did, however, I bet loads more have worked with us and don’t realise.
There are over 52 specialisms in healthcare science, and often we’ll use that to identify ourselves, I’m guilty of saying, ‘I’m a physicist’, rather than healthcare scientist, so it can be hard to track us all down.
I’m keen for other healthcare scientists to get in touch so I can ensure everyone is involved in our network, which we’re relaunching during Healthcare Science Week in March.
It will help raise awareness of what we do and be an opportunity to support each other.
I think it’s a real show of faith in healthcare scientists at our Trust that Clare Bailey, a scientist by background and our Director of Healthcare Professionals, is the first non-nurse in this type of role.
I’m proud to be on the programme as it’s important to raise the profile of science, technology, engineering and maths careers among girls. We need more people to know how they can use these skills in healthcare.
What do you like about your job?
I’m not a frontline clinician, however, everything I do is for our patients and if I optimise one of our machines, that can have an impact on thousands of people.
What do you like getting up to outside work?
I enjoy playing netball – it helps that I’m quite tall! The best thing is you don’t realise you’re exercising.
I also run a children’s choir on Saturday mornings. I’ve always been musical and I saw a gap in my community. It’s held at a community centre through the Salvation Army. I started in 2014 and the kids range from six up to 16. We have around 20 to 30 children in the choir and volunteers help me run it. We sing a lot of Disney songs! We do end of term concerts for friends and family and it’s so rewarding.
And, our favourite question of In Conversation With….do you have any pets?
We’ve got a golden doodle puppy, Riley, who just turned one. He’s very cute, which is why he gets away with everything as he’s very mischievous. He got told off recently when he dug up a tree in the garden that my husband had just planted.