Working as a NHS student statistician on my maths placement

Suzannah Phillips
Suzannah Phillips
Undergraduate student
Mathematics with a Placement Year BSc
Suzannah completed a year-long placement with the NHS as part of her maths degree.

What made you decide to study your course in Sheffield?

Maths was my favourite subject in sixth form - I always preferred completing my maths work to revising for my other subjects, which made me think I would enjoy learning more about the subject. I love Yorkshire and the North and, hailing from York, I didn’t want to move too far away from home. Prior to applying, I visited Sheffield a few times. I found that it was full of character and seemed a lot friendlier than several of the other northern universities. Sheffield is also full of green spaces and it is very close to the Peak District National Park, which sets it apart from most other universities. Also, even before I got to university, I knew I would want to complete a placement because I was really eager to get stuck into the workplace - I figured any professional experience, good or bad, would help steer my career in the right direction.

What have you enjoyed most about your course?

I enjoyed tutorials the most because I always loved the feeling of taking a set of questions to your tutorial, which seemed impossible when you’d attempted them yourself at home, then your tutor would guide you step-by-step to help you unpick the question until the solution became clear. I leave the classroom feeling able to complete the once undoable question myself, which makes me feel really accomplished.

What transferable skills have you developed during your course?

Critical thinking and problem solving are skills I have developed through the course, which can be used in so many careers. I also think self-discipline and resilience are really useful skills I have gained through independent study. This will really help me when moving to a workplace setting where I will have to manage my own workload and time.

What do you hope to do after your degree?

I would like to work in statistics, perhaps in clinical trials. I feel that health statistics and population statistics are more interesting and fit better with my ethos than a career in finance. Working in these fields would allow me to, indirectly, ensure that my mathematical work helps others. 

What would you say to a prospective student considering studying Mathematics with a Placement Year?

If you really are interested in mathematics, get enjoyment out of discovering new maths, and feel that kick of joy when you get a tricky question right, then that shows you have a strong passion for maths. Maths is a subject renowned by many, which demonstrates you are a logical problem solver, which is very desirable to employers.

Where is your placement and what is your role?

My placement was working for NHS Blood and Transplant within the ‘Statistics and Clinical Studies’ department, where I worked on many different projects as a Student Statistician.

What sort of things have you been doing on your placement?

My work was centred around blood donation, organ donation, and transplantation, which meant I worked with lots of different professionals including clinicians, clinical trials managers, surgeons, PhD students and fellow statisticians. My role primarily consisted of using the programming software, SAS, to create code and datasets that could be used by internal and external individuals to answer statistical enquiries, or create datasets they could analyse. As well as this, I worked on a few projects such as carrying out the statistical analysis and results write-up for a hospital audit seeking to determine the factors influencing death from a major haemorrhage. 

What skills have you learnt from your placement?

Without doubt, my placement has improved my time-management and self-discipline whilst working from home, as well as strengthening my coding skills immensely. I can now identify, understand, and rectify coding errors much more quickly. During my placement, I also had the opportunity to deliver two presentations to the rest of my team, which allowed me to gain further experience in verbal communication and public speaking. 

What have you enjoyed most about the placement year?

For the most part, I really enjoyed learning about the world of organ donation and everything that it encompasses. Many hospitals and governing bodies have told us that they view the statistics teams as the heart of the NHS. Even patients also comment on how beneficial the work we statisticians do is beneficial to them. It makes me really proud that I had the opportunity to be part of a team that ultimately saves lives.

How do you think the placement year will help your career?

My placement will have a massive impact on me because it will set me apart from my peers who have not done a placement. When applying to graduate jobs, I will have a full year of work experience under my belt to talk about during interviews, plus several esteemed professional references, which will surely stand in my favour. My placement will also reduce the shock of moving away from university into the workplace because I now have previous experience of the transition.

Search for a course

Use our search to find the right course for you.