Healthcare scientists working in clinical biochemistry analyse samples taken from patients’ blood, urine or other bodily fluids to help with the investigation, diagnosis and treatment of diseases. They develop and implement new techniques, interpret results and liaise with and advise clinical staff on the correct use of tests and any necessary follow up investigations. They are responsible for the evaluation and quality assessment of diagnostic tests and play a role in developing and managing hospital and community analytical services.
Clinical biochemistry healthcare scientists work as part of a team with other health professionals, such as biomedical scientists and pathologists. Although usually based in a hospital laboratory, they are increasingly found working at the point of care, for example in clinics and operating theatres, supporting the investigation of patients.
Typical work activities
- Planning and organising work in clinical biochemistry laboratories, much of which is automated and computer assisted.
- Performing clinical validation: checking abnormal results identified by automated analysers and deciding if further tests are necessary.
- Carrying out complex biochemical analyses on specimens of body fluids and tissues, using spectrophotometry, mass spectroscopy, high performance chromatography, electrophoresis, immunoassay and, increasingly, molecular biological techniques.
- Auditing the use and diagnostic performance of tests, as part of national and international quality assurance programmes.
- Identifying the cause of and resolving any poor analytical performance problems.
- Searching scientific literature for evidence of specificity and sensitivity of a diagnostic test.
- Devising and conducting basic or applied research.
- Writing reports, funding bids and conducting research with clinical staff.
- Liaising with clinical and technical staff, and contacting patients.
- Training staff, reviewing the need for staff training, supervising MSc students and giving lectures to medical undergraduates.
- Attending and contributing to local and national scientific meetings and conferences.
- Managing a clinical biochemical laboratory as career progresses.
- Laboratory skills and the ability to plan and do research.
- Strong problem-solving skills.
- Analytical and investigative mind.
- Excellent oral and written communication skills.
- Ability to manage a laboratory project and liaise with a wide variety of technical colleagues.
- Ability to work effectively as part of a team.
- Most laboratories are highly computerised so computer literacy is essential.
Career progression to higher grades, following successful completion of the training period, may involve moving to another hospital. Further study and training may follow and some healthcare scientists study for a PhD either full or part time. Networking at all levels is part of successful career development in this role. Maintaining a professional profile by presenting research at meetings, undertaking work exchanges abroad and applying for research grants is recommended. As your career progresses you will assume a more supervisory role and carry fuller responsibility for the work of the laboratory.
There are also opportunities to specialise in particular areas, such as:
endocrinology; toxicology; paediatrics; immunology; molecular biology.
Most consultancy posts carry independent responsibility for managing a laboratory and for advising the health authority on policy issues. The status is comparable to that of a hospital consultant. Career expectation should be to progress to a consultant, becoming a deputy head or head of a department. There are opportunities for management roles within the National Health Service and in the diagnostics and pharmaceutical industries ranging from pure research, through to technical support for sales and marketing, to medical information specialists and senior management posts. Lecturing in higher education institutes is also possible.
Original content at prospects.ac.uk