Case study

Locum biomedical scientist — Laura Fieldhouse

Laura saves lives working in a busy blood transfusion laboratory. Discover how a biomedical science degree and an industrial placement helped her step onto the career ladder

How did you get your job?

During my biomedical science degree I took a year-long industrial placement in an NHS laboratory as a trainee biomedical scientist and completed my registration portfolio. This meant that I could register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) as a biomedical scientist.

After graduation, I got a Band 5 biomedical scientist position in the haematology and transfusion lab at Birmingham Women's Hospital where I did my training. I worked there for a year and then moved on to a position at Walsall Manor Hospital. Here, I carried on training in haematology and transfusion and completed a specialist diploma in biomedical science. I was then promoted to a Band 6 specialist biomedical scientist.

After this I decided to become a locum biomedical scientist using Your World Healthcare, a specialist healthcare recruitment agency, and I am now working in a busy blood transfusion laboratory at Leicester Royal Infirmary.

How relevant is your degree to your job?

It's essential, as in order to register as a biomedical scientist with the HCPC you need to have completed an Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS) accredited degree. You may be able to register as a biomedical scientist if you've got a non-accredited degree or a degree in a similar scientific subject such as human biology; however, you often have to go back to university to complete top-up modules.

What do you do as a biomedical scientist?

The lab where I work is split into different sections depending on the type of work that's being carried out. I'm usually allocated the cross matching section, where patients are assigned donor units, which are safe for them to be transfused with.

When deciding which units are safe for the patient, I need to take many factors into account, for example their blood group, clinical condition, age, medication and test results. This often involves testing the patients' and donors' blood and liaising with clinical staff, such as doctors and nurses, to obtain more information.

Throughout the day I'm sent requests for blood and other blood products, such as platelets, from hospital wards. I have to identify which requests to prioritise and deal with any problems and queries from other laboratory staff and from doctors and nurses on the wards.

How has your role developed and what are your ambitions?

At the start of my career I was trained by, and shadowed more experienced members of staff in order to complete my specialist diploma. As my knowledge and experience grew, I secured a Band 6 specialist biomedical scientist position. This gave me more responsibilities in the lab and allowed me to work alone during weekends and on nights. I also became involved in training junior members of staff and trainee biomedical scientists, something which I particularly enjoy.

I'm hoping to complete my Masters degree in haematology and transfusion and become a senior scientist and training officer in the future. This would provide me with more of a teaching role within the lab.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your role?

I love using my interest and passion for science to help save people's lives. For example, knowing that I am directly involved in preventing a person from bleeding to death gives me a lot of job satisfaction.

What are the most challenging parts?

Often, if a patient is bleeding very heavily there will be immense pressure to provide blood quickly while, at the same time, ensuring that it is safe. Having to perform complicated tests and interpret a vast amount of information under pressure can be very stressful, especially as a single mistake could result in serious harm or even the death of a patient.

What advice would you give to aspiring biomedical scientists?

Choose an IBMS-accredited degree if you can, otherwise you may have to do top-up modules before you can register as a biomedical scientist.

Also, try and get a placement or work experience in an NHS laboratory during your degree in order to complete your registration portfolio, so that you can begin working as a biomedical scientist after graduation.

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