The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Q&A with Owen Wiggins, Healthcare Science Associate - National Apprenticeship Week 2022

8 February 2022

NAW2022 case study 1Name: Owen Wiggins

Job role: HCS Diploma Apprentice

CSU/area of work: Medical Physics


What apprenticeship are you doing/have you done?

I am currently completing the Level 4 Healthcare Science Associate Apprenticeship, which I started in September 2020.

What is your background?

Before starting my apprenticeship I was in the sixth form at college, studying Biology, Psychology and English Literature, an interesting and unlikely mix as when I picked them I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do after I finished college. I studied and still live in a small town near Wakefield in West Yorkshire where I grew up. One of the main things which prevented me from enjoying studying at sixth form was the pressure I was beginning to feel that I was simply a number there and not a person; I felt that this would likely be even worse at university which is run more like a business than a place of learning. I decided that I would focus my energy into looking for an apprenticeship as I felt that it would lead to a career and I would enjoy the hands-on style of learning and receive a higher level of personal support if required. I also felt I would enjoy studying and working towards an apprenticeship rather than going to university and this would be beneficial for me. I have a large range of interests which helped me look for something that I would enjoy and I knew that I wanted to do something that involved helping people and I didn’t want to be sitting down at a desk all day, which eliminated many potential roles.

How did you find out about the apprenticeship, and how was the recruitment process?

My parents have always fully supported me over any decisions that I have made regarding my future. However, I think they had always expected me to attend university. I felt that I needed to convince them that an apprenticeship was right for me by finding an apprenticeship that offered recognised qualifications and a future career with prospects. When I found the HCS Level 4 Medical Engineering apprenticeship on NHS Jobs it instantly stood out to me as I felt that it fitted my aspirations to make an impact and also to help others; it was this opportunity that I used to demonstrate to my parents that modern apprenticeships are a real alternative to going to university.

I then set about applying for the role online and attended some of the career fairs where I knew the medical engineering team would be at, taking time to talk to the current apprentices and asked them what they did and how they would recommend that I set about applying. I applied and was invited an assessment centre.

The assessment process was one of the most rigorous I had experienced,. One of the things that struck me the most on the day was how focused the assessment was on teamwork and communication and not simply on who could answer the maths questions the fastest. The interview was very similar in terms of how welcoming everyone was and I was truthfully very surprised that I had even got this far. If I am being honest the wait after the interview was the longest two days of my life and I experienced every emotion under the sun during this time.

However the wait was well worth it in the end because finding out that I had been given the job was easily the proudest day of my life and all of my family were really happy for me to be offered this opportunity as they knew how much it meant to me.

How did you feel starting work at the Trust?

I was expecting starting work within the Trust to be very daunting and stressful and whilst it would be wrong to say that I never felt like that I must say it was a really comfortable experience for me overall. I think this is because all of the existing apprentices are very welcoming and understanding of my position. I am lucky as in my current team more than half of the team members started out as apprentice medical engineers, much like I have, so they know my base of knowledge and understand that I may need them to go through something with me more than once.

I am also very lucky to have a fantastic line manager and the support of all the clinical technologists who I trust and can ask for advice if required. What surprised me were the different roles I could experience and all of the different equipment and regulations I could learn during my placements. This is great because it means that even if you don’t enjoy doing one job in a team you will likely enjoy working on another task or in another role in medical physics. I have spent time in several different Medical Engineering placement teams and I can honestly say that I am really enjoying it, I feel settled and I am learning a lot.

How does this apprenticeship benefit yourself and others?

I find real personal value in feeling that I am helping people, this is why I feel a real sense of pride in being able to work for the NHS, which I feel is the best healthcare provider in the world. The job that we do ensures directly that the patient has continued access to the best medical equipment that is performing to its optimum and in turn aids them in whatever way required.

We also strive to ensure that there is enough medical equipment to treat all of the patients, if we are not efficient at returning equipment to the clinical area there is a risk of the hospital getting potentially overwhelmed, there is a definite pressure to our roles. If any equipment that I have worked on is for a Covid-19 ward I really feel like I am doing my bit to aid the recovery of the patients and supporting the community and being a part of the larger hospital team during the Covid-19 pandemic.

For me I want to use this apprenticeship to further my career. I can start to apply for substantive posts 18 months into my apprenticeship and hopefully secure a role in the team that I enjoy working in the most. On completion of the Level 4 apprenticeship it is my ambition to embark on the level 6 HCS Apprenticeship; continue my learning and gain the skills to carry out complex and advanced technical services and repairs on medical equipment. One day I hope to be the head of a team as I feel like I have great natural leadership skills and hope to pick up further knowledge necessary to lead a team in the coming years. Ultimately I would like to lead a long, happy and successful career in the Trust.