Jul 13, 2017 | By Benedict

A hospital in the Welsh city of Swansea has created a position for a “biomedical 3D technician.” The role at Morriston Hospital involves designing and 3D printing surgical models, implants, and cutting guides, and is the first job of its kind within the British National Health Service (NHS).

After completing her undergraduate degree in theatre design at Nottingham Trent University, Heather Goodrum came away with a very useful skill: proficiency in digital 3D design. While the graduate had originally learnt to use CAD software to create stage pieces, she soon realized that her talents in 3D design could take her away from the theater.

In actual fact, Goodrum’s 3D proficiency eventually took her to another kind of theater: the operating theater. After completing a masters program in facial forensic art—making both clay and digital reconstructions from skulls—the 3D expert applied for Morriston Hospital’s brand new position for a medical 3D technician. The position is believed to be the first of its kind within the NHS.

Goodrum was hired for the role, and now uses her versatile skill set to help maxillofacial consultants plan reconstruction surgery. Among the objects that Goodrum creates are 3D printed implants, 3D printed cutting guides, and 3D printed medical models. It’s a far cry from making theatrical props, but Goodrum can now claim to have one of the most unique roles in UK medicine.

“The surgeons decide how they want to be able to do the surgery and the design side is then down to me and the reconstructive scientists in our team,” Goodrum told the BBC. “I’ll design the part required and the team and I sit down together to make any alterations. Once complete it is sent away for 3D printing.”

Goodrum’s opportunity arose after Peter Llewelyn Evans, the maxillofacial laboratory services manager at Morriston Hospital, argued that the hospital needed a better level of 3D planning for head and neck reconstructions.

Other British hospitals have reportedly been in contact with Morriston and Goodrum about the possibility of creating their own 3D technician positions. And while Goodrum is still learning on the job, the benefits of her work are already becoming apparent.

“I’ve…learnt a lot from being able to go into theater and getting feedback straight away,” Goodrum said. “You're really part of the team and you do develop a rapport with the surgeons. You know you are literally helping patients rebuild their lives.”

The emergence of 3D printing technologies within the NHS is a small positive sign for supporters of the national health service, which allows any member of the public to receive free healthcare. The health service has been critically understaffed and fraught with financial problems in recent years.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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