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Clinical Support Technicians (left) and Caroline Steward (right).
Vital role of clinical support technicians
21 September 2017

Did you know our hospital has a group of clinical support technicians (CSTs) who play a crucial role each and every day by supporting colleagues to take bloods, carry out heart monitoring and insert cannulas?

The 14-strong team offer a 24/7 service across the whole trust, and are often called to help clinical colleagues to care for emergency admissions, deteriorating patients and those who have suffered a cardiac arrest. Three are on duty at any one time, with one covering the emergency admissions unit (Brantham and Capel Wards), a second in the surgical assessment unit, and the third taking responsibility for the remainder of the hospital’s wards.

“CSTs play a vital role in the hospital by taking the pressure off doctors and nurses and helping to free up their time,” said Nikki Benmore, CST line manager.

“The majority of our CSTs are former healthcare assistants (HCAs), although there is also a former theatre assistant and ED porter in the team, who have completed a HCA training package so that the group are all at the same level. In addition, they will receive additional training in cannulation, ECGs (a test to monitor your heart) and phlebotomy to help them fulfil the role, and will shadow a clinical colleague until they have gained their competencies and can fly solo.

“Our hospital has been using CSTs for about ten years now, and the team has always been really well received by colleagues. They are highly valued across the trust – without them, some of our wards simply wouldn’t run as efficiently.”


“I like everything about the job”

Shantell Ainsworth has relished every aspect of her role as a CST since joining the team around a year ago, and especially enjoys the close contact it brings with patients.

Formerly a healthcare assistant on Haughley Ward, she decided to become a CST to fulfil her desire to further develop her skills and learn more – and hasn’t looked back since.

“I like everything about the job,” said Shantell. “I love meeting patients, having a chat and putting them at ease, and I also like the huge variety of different illnesses we come across. We get involved with everything from deteriorating patients to cardiac arrests and acute illnesses. Most of our work is urgent and we will do whatever is needed to help our colleagues, from inserting cannulas to carrying out observations.

“I loved the HCA role but wanted to learn more and develop my skills, and the CST job seemed like the ideal opportunity to do that.

“The doctors are always grateful for the work we do and its really nice to hear that we are appreciated.”


“Hopefully we help to take some of the pressure off our colleagues”

Caroline Steward retrained as a CST in April after spending the previous there years working as a healthcare assistant on Shotley and Kesgrave wards.

She particularly enjoys meeting different patients, as well as managing her own workload and prioritising the requests she receives depending on clinical need.

She said: “I applied for the role as I was keen to develop more clinical skills. I enjoy the variety of the job and being able to prioritise my work – we have to be very proactive to manage the bleep along with the requests we receive from our doctors.

“It’s a demanding job as we deal with a lot of very ill patients, such as people with suspected sepsis. But we also work across a wide area and get to meet lots of different people, which I really enjoy.

“Every shift is busy, but hopefully that helps to take some of the pressure off our colleagues.”