Apprentice Clinical Engineer

You may have heard about the lack of female engineers nationwide.

But I’m delighted to say that Bradford Teaching Hospitals is bucking the trend! The first-ever apprentice in our Clinical Engineering department, 21-year-old Bradie Cunningham, is on track for success!

Bradie joined us in September 2016, and is studying for a BSc in Healthcare Science (Clinical Engineering) at the University of the West of England while learning on the job.

Following academic success at school, she targeted a career in engineering and was delighted to land a coveted apprenticeship role within our renowned Clinical Engineering department.

Two years on Bradie, originally from Doncaster, has already built up an impressive bank of knowledge and is set to graduate from university with a top degree next summer.

She said: “I’ve always wanted to do engineering and knew a little bit about the electronics side of it as my older brother is an electrician. I studied engineering at college for two years and realised that I liked it.

“I decided that I wanted to find a role where I could earn a salary while studying too, and found the apprenticeship at Bradford on the NHS jobs website. There was me and four others who came for the interview, and they then invited two of us back for a week’s work trial and I got the job.

“I have been here for two years now and have done the first two years of my degree course too.”

As part of her course, Bradie takes part in two hourly webinars with university lecturers each week, completes regular assignments, and attends three week-long study schools in Bristol each academic year. So how does she fit it all in?

Enjoy working

“I really enjoy working as part of the team at the Trust and the work I do complements what I’m learning on my course. My colleagues have been a big help and often read over my assignment work and I also get a day-and-a-half each week to study.

“However, I do do nine hour days at work on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays!”

Bradie added she is proud to be the Clinical Engineering department’s first apprentice and her gender has never been an issue.

“I really like working here and I would urge any girls looking at a career in engineering to go for it.

“The great thing about engineering is that there are many different types. Applying to be an engineer at the Trust was one of the best decisions I have ever made!

“I think sometimes that people are shocked that I am a girl, but as soon as they know that I know what I’m talking about they are fine.”

Since joining us, Bradie has carried out a wide range of work too.

“In terms of experience, in my first year here I went over to Renal at St Luke’s and then went to Leeds for two weeks to work on linear accelerators (most commonly used for external beam radiation treatments for patients with cancer).

Bradie Cunningham

“This year I have been with an anaesthetist to find out more about how the machines he uses are used, and I’ve been into maternity. I’ve also spent a day in theatres and have worked on a wide range of equipment including suction pumps, a Doppler ultrasound, defibrillators, infusion pumps, syringe drivers, and nebulisers.

“I started with low risk equipment such as thermometers, and have now worked on high-risk equipment such as anaesthetic monitors.

“I’m really trying to get a clinical view on how the equipment I work with on a daily basis is used. I have also worked with procurement to find out how medical equipment is purchased and I have been to an MDT (multi-disciplinary team) meeting

“I have done quite a lot already and have received excellent training both internally and externally.”

Bradie’s academic work is also going well, so much so that she’s targeting a first-class honours degree.

“The plan is, hopefully, to get a first. My uni lecturer comes down once a year to check how I’m doing. Once I qualify next May, I will be a band 5 clinical engineer! Then I’m hoping to stay here, get up to band 6 and specialise in my own department.

“My colleagues have a lot of knowledge and help me out a lot. We are quite a good team who all help each other, and I really enjoy coming to work every day. I would recommend it to anyone.”

Balanced work and study

Bradie’s boss, Iain Threlkeld, Head of Clinical Engineering, said: “Everyone in Clinical Engineering has been impressed by Bradie and how well she has settled into the department. She has balanced her work and study exceptionally well and will be a real asset to the department.

“I have every confidence she will graduate from university next year with a very good degree and become a well-respected member of the Clinical Engineering department for many years to come.

“As for future apprentices, it is something we definitely want to do. However, we are only able to recruit when we have a vacancy and can’t take on too many at once as we aren’t a big department.

“Once Bradie graduates next year we will definitely be looking to start someone else on the apprenticeship path.”