Nicola – Trainee Rehabilitation Engineer

I currently work at Rookwood Hospital, Cardiff where I am a Trainee Rehabilitation Engineer. I work in the Rehabilitation Engineering Department where I design, prescribe and manufacture custom made seating for wheelchairs.

I am responsible for taking measurements and working out what the client requires, for example, how much padding is needed, does the client have good arm movement and need a self propel wheelchair, do they need a powered wheelchair. These are some of the many questions we will look at to work out what wheelchair is best for each client. Once we have made a decision we can put together a prescription (just like the doctor does for your medicine) and order all the parts we need. I will then help to put all the parts together using various machines in the workshop.

Before working as a Trainee Rehabilitation Engineer, I undertook a Medical Engineering degree at Cardiff University. At school I always thought I would pursue a career of a Mathematics teacher. However it was my Mathematics teacher who suggested I looked into engineering as a career as engineering puts maths and science into practice. At GCSE level I choose to study Geography, French and Drama, along with the core subjects of Mathematics and Science. For A-levels I studied Mathematics, Physics and Geography because these were the subjects I was better at but they are also good subjects for engineering (most universities ask for Mathematics and Science A-level).

I thoroughly enjoyed studying Medical Engineering and found it very interesting that I could be involved with designing the next new medical device e.g. something like the ‘Cheetah’ prosthetic leg worn by Oscar Pistorius in the Paralympics. With a Medical Engineering degree you can go onto design and make wheelchairs (like I currently do) or design medical equipment such as MRI scanners and much more. There are a lot of opportunities in Science and Engineering and choosing good core and Science subjects will leave your options open to the many different career opportunities. As you can see from my job, engineering is not just wearing overalls; it’s coming up with new developments and potentially being part of ‘the next big thing’.

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