Cathy West, principal echocardiographer, cardiology

Can you describe what you do day-to-day?

I oversee the running of the echocardiography department, where my main focus is on delivering a jolly good service to our patients. The role is wide and varied, but it’s sprinkled with elements of staff development, maintaining quality and education, service planning and external relations. 

What do you like most about your job?

I think a good quality Echocardiogram (echo) is pivotal to supporting a specialist heart and lung centre, so when I consider our role in patient care, that inspires me to provide the best possible service. I love spending time with patients. It’s also a real privilege to co-lead our amazing team of echo professionals; they put their best foot forward every day. Portrait of Cathy West

What have been some of the highlights in your role to date?

I’d have to say, being involved with some of the innovative projects across the hospitals – from setting up new services, the relocation of the echo department, implementing new reporting software to most recently, opening our new suite in the Royal Brompton Diagnostic Centre

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Making a diagnosis that has a poor prognosis. Human factors are the hardest. 

What is the best/ funniest thing a patient has ever said to you?

I could write a book on this one! Patients often interpret the sights and sounds of the echo in a very different way to me. When I’m focusing intently on the heart and hear comments on weather patterns, faces and babies, it does make me chuckle. The best one yet? – ‘It sounds like a masticating llama’. The mind boggles.

Why did you decide to work in healthcare?

It was never the long-term plan; I really wanted to be a surfer girl and then, for a while, a veterinarian. Some days I still want to be that surfer girl...