Case study

Biomedical scientist — Roslyn Cooke

Upon graduating, Roslyn had a defined career path that she knew she wanted to take, which resulted in her quickly securing a role as a specialist healthcare scientist…

How did you get your job?

I studied an IBMS-accredited BSc Honours degree in Biomedical Science with a Diploma in Professional Practice; this meant it included a placement year within an IBMS-approved NHS hospital laboratory. I studied at the University of Ulster, Coleraine campus in Northern Ireland for four years and graduated in 2012.

Due to the nature of my course, once I graduated I was eligible to apply immediately for registration to be a biomedical scientist with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

Initially, I worked as a band 5 biomedical scientist for 11 months, working shifts including nights, weekends and public holidays, and these included working alone. This job built up my knowledge and lone-working skills and so I felt ready to apply for a higher-banded post. I am now in my current post which is a band 6 specialist healthcare scientist.

I went into this career because I wanted to help people

How relevant is your degree to your job?

The degree I chose was co-terminus and IBMS accredited, which allowed me to complete the IBMS Registration Training Portfolio. This was what gave me the ability to go straight into a band 5 post, rather than as a trainee. It would have taken me a few more years to get where I am now if I had not completed a co-terminus degree. My degree also gave me the basis of all the knowledge I needed to start working in any laboratory no matter what discipline.

What are your main work activities?

The laboratory I work in at the moment handles approximately 2,500 specimens a day. Clinical chemistry labs analyse a range of samples including blood, urine, CSF and fluids. Our lab is split up into different sections depending on the type of work done: automated chemistry analysers, immunoassay analysers, electrophoresis, small volume test requests and quality. I rotate around these sections on a monthly basis. This ensures that my knowledge, practical and technical skills are built up in a range of different tests and equipment.

Day-to-day the lab ensures that samples are processed and analysed as fast and efficiently as possible. All samples that come through to be tested need to be checked to ensure they are the right specimen type and of sufficient quality for all tests requested, e.g. some tests cannot be done on day old samples.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

When I first started my initial training as a trainee biomedical scientist during my placement I spent a lot of time observing qualified biomedical scientists. Once I finished my Registration Training Portfolio and graduated, I was able to be trained in the routine workings of a laboratory. I built these skills up in my first job and I now specialise in biochemistry. I can provide advice to our service users on specimen types, collection, specific reference ranges etc. I am aiming to increase my skills and knowledge by starting the IBMS Specialist Portfolio in the near future. I also hope to become more involved with training aspects of the laboratory as I am always keen to help and encourage others.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I went into this career because I wanted to help people. The more common hospital jobs such as a doctor and nurse didn't interest me due to the direct patient contact, and so when I came across biomedical science I knew it was right for me. This job allows me to be involved in the diagnosis of a patient or in the monitoring of their treatment.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

Although I love the variety my job gives me, I also find the shifts very difficult. As we are a 24/7 lab there is always at least one biomedical scientist available. Being on your own can be quite daunting, as you are responsible for maintaining, running and troubleshooting all the analysers.

Any words of advice for someone who wants to get into this job?

The main things is to try and get as much experience as possible, whether it be a trainee post or as a medical laboratory assistant/support worker. This builds up your basic laboratory skills, which you need to start this career with. If you are thinking of studying biomedical science at university, my biggest piece of advice is to study an IBMS-accredited degree, preferably one that also has a placement opportunity. This gives you a good start to try to get a band 5 biomedical scientist job within the NHS upon graduation.

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