Fiona’s Story

Lots of our heart families will recognise Fiona, one of Clark Clinic’s cardiac physiologists, from visits to outpatients and Clark Clinic. Fiona has been working at Clark Clinic for 14 years and took a bit of time out to tell us about her work.

Q.1 – How do you become a physiologist and why did you specialise in paediatric cardiology?

Nowadays, anyone wanting to become a cardiac physiologist studies on the degree course (healthcare science in cardiology) at the University of Ulster, however when I started in cardiology there wasn’t a degree programme so I was trained in the main RVH and gained my professional qualifications and then I completed the post graduate programme at the University of Ulster. When I worked in the main Royal we worked on a rota system which involved coming over to the clinics in the children’s hospital to do ECG’s and also working in the cath lab which performed the paediatric catheterisations on a Thursday. I always found congenital heart disease very interesting and I enjoyed working with the children so when a job was advertised to work in cardiac investigations I thought I would give it a go and I have been here ever since!!

Q.2 – What role does the physiologist play within the Clark Clinic team?

Clark Clinic as you know have a very diverse multi-disciplinary team, and we perform and report the majority of the investigations within cardiology such as echocardiograms, exercise stress test, 24 hour monitors and ECG’s. These investigations form a vital part of the patient’s assessment including clinical examination by the doctor, therefore we work alongside the doctors providing diagnosis and further investigations. We also work closely with the nurses who we turn to for advice and guidance with complex patients and also highlight any issues that may be relevant to the nursing staff.

Q.3 – What does a typical day look like?

Every day is different so I don’t think there is anything as a typical day! Most days start early with checking equipment and cleaning equipment before heading to clinic or starting an outpatient or inpatient echo list. There are usually a few inpatient echoes to be carried out again whether that is in the children’s hospital, Royal maternity or at an outside hospital if we happen to be at an outreach clinic. We occasionally get patients transferred to us from other hospitals for investigations as well. The day at some point will usually consist of outpatient clinic alongside one of the consultants whether this is in the royal site or an outreach clinic. Another aspect of the job is holter analysis and reporting which involves scanning through 24/ 48-hour tape recordings and reporting on such studies before sending the results to the consultant. Exercise stress testing is another aspect of the job, putting patients through their paces on the treadmill!! This is mainly used for assessment of chest pain, exercise induced palpations and also to assess heart rhythm during exercise. The day can end with a glass of wine (at home of course) provided we are not on call for echocardiograms.

Q.4. – What is the most satisfying part of your job?

The most satisfying part of the job for me is seeing patients growing up and returning to outpatient clinic months and years after an admission to Clark clinic or after surgery. You know you have worked there for a long time when you know the patients face and don’t have to yell over the waiting room as you know who you are looking for. I think it is so uplifting when you see patients who were babies that lay in the ward for weeks or months with an uncertain future and they are grown up and are progressing from childhood to teenage years and then onto the adult congenital clinic.

Q.5. – Outside of work, how do you like to relax?

It’s hard to relax outside work at the minute as like Sarah from the Children’s Heartbeat Trust I am knee deep in wedding plans at the moment, but my best way of relaxing is running away from it all..… I enjoy running and putting my ipod on and heading out for a run to clear my head, taking in different routes in my local area several times a week no matter what the weather. I also enjoy playing with my niece and nephews in my spare time though it is nice to hand them back to their parents as well. Like many others I enjoy going out with friends for a catch up and still regularly meet up with girls that I went to primary school with!!