Biomedical scientists work in healthcare and carry out a range of laboratory tests and techniques on tissue samples and fluids to help clinicians diagnose diseases. They also evaluate the effectiveness of treatments. Their work is extremely important for many hospital departments and the functions they carry out are wide ranging. For example, they may work on medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, AIDS, malaria, food poisoning or anaemia, or carry out tests for emergency blood transfusions or to see if someone has had a heart attack.
Biomedical scientists can work in three areas: infection sciences; blood sciences; and cellular sciences.
Infection sciences include: medical microbiology – identification of micro-organisms causing disease and their antibiotic treatment; virology – identification of viruses, associated diseases and monitoring the effectiveness of vaccines.
Blood sciences include: clinical chemistry – analysis of body fluids and toxicology studies; transfusion science – determination of donor/recipient blood compatibility, ensuring blood banks are sufficient; haematology – form and functions of blood and related diseases; immunology – understanding the immune system and its role in combating disease.
Cellular sciences include: histopathology – microscopic examination of diseased tissue samples; cytology – best known for cervical smear screening, but also covers other cellular analysis; reproductive sciences – analysis of samples to detect fertility issues.
Typical work activities
- Testing human samples such as blood, tissue, urine or cerebrospinal and faecal material for enzymes, hormones, and other constituents.
- Analysing cell cultures grown from tissue samples and identifying blood groups.
- Working with computers, sophisticated automated machinery, microscopes and other hi-tech Laboratory equipment.
- Assisting in ensuring that the necessary turnaround times for reporting results are achieved wherever possible.
- Giving test results to medical staff, who use the information to diagnose and treat the patient’s illness.
- Monitoring the effects of medication and other programmes of treatment by carrying out further tests.
- Using information technology to accurately record and analyse data, write reports and share results.
- Responding to and redirecting professional enquiries.
- Assisting in the production of laboratory documentation, particularly relating to policies and standard operating procedures.
- Developing new methods of investigation and keeping up to date with diagnostic innovations.
- Implementing quality control procedures (both internal and external) to maintain accurate results.
- Maintaining and updating professional knowledge and taking responsibility for continuing professional development.
- Good practical laboratory skills and manual dexterity.
- Patience and the ability to work accurately and efficiently.
- Ability to prioritise tasks and meet deadlines.
- Willingness to accept responsibility and use common sense.
- Flexibility and the ability to work with a range of equipment and techniques.
- Good communication and team-working skills.
- Ability to maintain client confidentiality.
- Ability to work under pressure while maintaining standards of service.
- Ability to work alone or under instruction.
- IT skills.
Promotion opportunities for biomedical scientists are dependent on qualifications, performance and experience. A higher degree (MSc) or management qualifications, such as an MBA, are often required for progression to senior levels. Gaining a higher specialist diploma through the Institute of Biomedical Science can also aid promotion. Achieving fellowship status will significantly aid the progression of your career. It is one of the highest qualifications in the field and can be gained through an approved higher degree or thesis. If you achieve fellowship status and have postgraduate qualifications and sufficient continuing professional development, you can work towards chartered scientist status. This is an internationally recognised mark of a high level of professionalism and competence.
The need to continue to develop professionally is strongly encouraged in the profession, with the opportunity to continue to advanced specialist diplomas, or a research or professional doctorate. Career progression for many biomedical scientists involves taking charge of a section within a laboratory or taking over the management responsibilities for a particular department. You may also become involved in advanced specialist scientific work, research or training and education. In regions where recruitment is more difficult, it is often possible to progress at a faster rate. Your promotion prospects may be better if you are willing to relocate. Some biomedical scientists may choose a postgraduate route to other clinical roles, such as endocrinology, while others may move into health promotion or the commercial sector in product development or scientific sales and marketing.
Original content at prospects.ac.uk