Nottingham Trainee Experience – Owain Blackwood

Nottingham Trainee Experience – Owain Blackwood

Tell us about yourself:

I came to medicine as a mature student, and I’ve had a number of jobs that came before medical school, so I’m no stranger to hard work and dealing with hands-on problems.

Why did you choose pathology?

Pathology is fascinating in so many ways. It’s a real change as a doctor to go from treating and managing disease to investigating and understanding its causes. In many clinical roles, the daily administrative and workload problems keep us from engaging properly with the theory and science of medicine. Doctors who enjoy solving puzzles, the search for answers, and tracing timelines of events through investigation to diagnosis will find it a real professional pleasure.

What is the application process?

Application is undertaken centrally through Oriel, like most other medical training posts in the UK. Currently, applicants are required to demonstrate their own ability and interest in the speciality by submitting self-assessment evidence with their application. If they receive an invitation to interview, consultants in the field will assess their interest and ask them about hypothetical scenarios on the job to get a feel for how well they understand the training program and what’s involved.

Describe a typical working day:

Most Histopathology trainees start their day by assessing the workload on the speciality they’re currently assigned to (Skin, Urological, Haematopathology, etc), discussing it with their supervising consultant and planning their own workload and time accordingly. After that, they’re likely to spend the day using a microscope in their office to assess finished tissue slides, assisting with sample dissection in the laboratory, or sometimes in the mortuary performing or assisting with autopsies.

What is the best part of the job?

Finding the answer! You might find it by looking at cases under the microscope, dissecting an organ sample sent by a surgeon, or performing an autopsy. When careful attention to detail, understanding of the subject and logical reasoning give you strong evidence for a diagnosis, it’s a great feeling. And once you see disease with your own eyes it’s much easier to tie that the information required for your exams.

What is the worst part of the job?

Much like any medical speciality, we have our fair share of administrative, workload and procedural problems. This includes staff shortages, equipment failures or processing errors, which can make completing some tasks days longer than planned. That can be frustrating, while you know that the clinician and patient are waiting for an answer as soon as possible. 

Any helpful advice

Research, research, research before applying, like you would to any speciality. There’s lots of information out there if you look for it, including texts, articles and the resources provided by the Royal College of Pathologists, to tell you exactly what pathology is and how it works on a day-to-day basis. Ask your local department if you can visit their department, shadow for a taster placement, or meet a consultant histopathologist to ask what their job is like.