A day in the life of a Biomedical Scientist - Clinical Chemistry
Biomedical Scientists in Clinical Chemistry typically analyse blood, DNA and bodily fluids to help the diagnosis of diseases, such as diabetes. They also carry toxicological studies, text kidney and liver functions and help to monitor therapies.
Specialist Biomedical Scientist
Career to date
1-year trainee biomedical scientist in Belfast laboratories (various disciplines) completing the IBMS registration portfolio
1-year Band 5 Biomedical Scientist in Biochemistry in Cumberland Infirmary, Carlisle
Band 6 Specialist Biomedical Scientist completing my IBMS Specialist Portfolio in Clinical Biochemistry
I work many different shifts that cover the whole 24 hour period including day, late and night shifts. No matter what shift I am working my main priority is to process emergency samples. These include those from A&E, acute wards and samples that have been phoned through to the lab as urgent.
On day shifts (8.45am-5pm) our senior biomedical scientists are responsible for allocation of work, such as what areas of the lab need to be covered and by whom. However, if I am working a late shift or night shift, I am the sole biomedical scientist working for clinical chemistry and so I am responsible for all the work being processed.
Late shifts begin at 3pm, and the first thing I do when I start is to find out what analysers are working (or not). This ensures that I know which analysers to run samples on. I also find out if there have been any issues during the day that I need to be aware of. For example if our lab IT systems have been down or if there are issues with the GP electronic ordering system. From 3-5pm I mostly load up routine samples onto our main analysers. Routine work includes samples from GP surgeries and wards. Most GP samples arrive later in the afternoon so this can be a very busy time in the main lab.
Before the day shift staff finish, it is important that I receive a handover. I am informed of any issues with specific samples e.g. need phoned to clinician or GP surgery, or if there is anything I need to do in regards to urgent analyser maintenance. At this point, I am now working alone. This is where I start to change how I work. I always load up the emergency samples first before starting to analyse any new routine work. I also have to keep up to date with authorising results, and the phoning of any results that fall outside our alert limits. For example, all glucose results less than 2.5 mmol/L and greater than 25.0 mmol/L must be phoned back to the clinician. My aim is to try and phone as much of the abnormal results as I can to the GPs before they close at 6pm. After this time any abnormal results requiring action need to be phoned to our Out-of-hours services that cover Forth Valley.
From 5 - 8pm, I try to regularly load the routine samples across our main analysers. However, this really depends on the workload, how many urgent samples I receive, how many abnormal results I have to authorise/phone. Also if there is a problem with our analysers, e.g. it has run out of a reagent or an error occurs, I still have to ensure the emergency work is processed, and further routine work is usually stopped. I need to ensure that I have working analysers for these tests.
Our MLA staff who work in specimen reception finish at 8pm and from this point I am also responsible for receiving samples, booking them into our LIMS system and centrifuging them as well as analysing them. Again, emergency requests are still my priority. The late shift ends at 11pm and so I need to ensure that I am up to date with all emergency requests, authorising of results and telephoning of abnormal results. The main analysers also need to be quality controlled every 6hours so this needs to be up to date. I can then handover to the night shift biomedical scientist who will cover the lab until the next morning.
These shifts can be very demanding and particularly stressful due to the high volume of work with minimal staffing levels. As well as analysing all samples I also have to answer telephone calls from doctors and nurses with queries in regards to patient results, sample requirements or advice on sample collection or requesting on our electronic ordering system. However, it is very rewarding to work through so many samples knowing that patient results are available for wards and GPs with a fast turnaround time.