The field of medicine is ever-expanding and rather than just ‘doctor’ and ‘nurse’ there are now hundreds of specialties and job titles.
One such career is that of a physiologist, a job which flows through the very essence of medicine and incorporates all parts of the human body yet is still relatively unknown.
We take a look in more detail about the role of a physiologist and what career options are available.
What is physiology?
Put simply, physiology refers to the study of organisms; some have described it as the science of life.
A physiologist’s aim is to understand the mechanisms of being alive, studying every different molecule within the human body to comprehend how they combine to create both life and disease.
Humans have a number of different systems within their body – such as cardiovascular, endocrine, musculoskeletal – which interact with each other to create and sustain the human body. A physiologist is a scientist who is interested in the function of every micro-organism within this system and the part they play in every process.
A physiologist is not restricted to any particular discipline as the principles which underpin the role are equally relevant to every area. And without physiology there would be no hope of progress, no chance of finding cures to any disease as an understanding of the body’s cells and how they live, die and mutate are a fundamental part of any research.
Physiology studies the very core of how the human body works
As mentioned above, physiology plays a part in every field so it is possible to study physiology and still go on to specialise in a discipline you feel passionately about.
Because physiology demands a methodical mind and approach, research holds an appeal for many individuals. Working in a laboratory environment, focusing on prevention and detection is a common career choice for qualified physiologists. And because of the potential impact of any research or discoveries, there is a world-wide link-up between those working in the field of research, including shared data and resources in some cases.
Lecturing and acting as representatives in the pharmaceutical industry are other possible career paths.
However, although physiology is clearly defined as a science, the job does not have to be detached from patient interaction and care. A range of Graduate Physiology Jobs are available and this is often the entry route into the profession.
Almost every department has a role for physiologists, or at least some-one with a qualification in this area. A respiratory physiologist for example would be concerned with assessing an individual’s function, trying to determine the cause of the symptoms and ultimately delivering and monitoring treatment. This type of position provides the opportunity to use your knowledge and expertise in a more practical way; a traditional caring role fused with the clinical skills of a scientist.
This type of position is mirrored across a wide range of disciplines including cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and even dentistry.
Physiologists carry out a range of complex tests in order to get the necessary data to assess function and create a treatment plan
Delivering a different kind of medicine
Working in the NHS is a step many qualified medical professionals opt to take but it can be frustrating being unable to offer the quality or depth of service needed simply due to budget constraints.
This has never been more evident than in the role of an Exercise Physiologist.
Despite the importance of prevention, the NHS simply does not have the resources to be able to offer a comprehensive programme of exercise and wellbeing, which is one of the reasons why an increasing number of people are opting for private healthcare.
Health and Wellbeing Physiologists have the opportunity to use their knowledge and technical expertise in a way which can improve overall health. Rather than simply working with acute patients, the role provides the chance to see patients earlier in the process and using similar types of assessment, work out what improvements need to be made to their lifestyle and habits as well as considering what treatment they may need. This might include exercise, nutrition, posture, stress, sleep and any other disease management strategies. And as the approach focuses on the holistic, this encompasses psychological as well as physical needs.
This type of approach can be extremely rewarding as creating the right kind of intervention plan and delivering it can have very real results which filter through to improving the quality of an individual’s life.