A day in the life of a Specialist Biomedical Scientist - Medical Microbiology
In Medical Microbiology a biomedical scientist will study micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungi and parasites which cause disease. They identify organisms and establish the antibiotic treatment required to kill them. Diseases diagnosed include: meningitis, tuberculosis and food poisoning.
Specialist Biomedical Scientist
Career to date
Having graduated with a Biomedical with Biosciences degree from Robert Gordon University Aberdeen in 2007, I started working as a trainee biomedical scientist in the medical microbiology department at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary in September of that year. The first 2 years I spent training within the department, completing the Registration Portfolio in order to become HCPC registered. In 2016, I was successful in gaining a promoted post to become a senior biomedical scientist within the department.
I have a keen interest in training and I am a training deputy within the department. The duties for this include: training students on placement, training and guiding trainee staff with practical tasks and with their portfolios and assessing staff for competency within the Antimicrobial susceptibility section of the laboratory. I am in the midst of completing the IBMS Certificate of Expert Practice in Training and I am about to start the Higher Specialist Diploma portfolio in Medical Microbiology. After winning funding from the Jen Johnson Bursary this year, I will be attending the IBMS Congress for the first time. I am really looking forward to it.
The lab operates a 24hr a day service so I partake in the labs shift rota. The rota is a 21-week repeating rota and includes 4 weeks of backshifts (2-10) and 1 week of nightshift, and a variety of weekend shifts also. On a backshift week, I supervise a team of 6. Backshifts are extremely busy with the samples arriving from the GP surgeries.
Main Duties for each shift
Dayshift - Start of the shift
A dayshift means an 8.30am start. Typically the first job of the day would be taking the agars that were inoculated with patient samples the previous day, out of the incubators. Myself and several other biomedical scientists will start reading the plates, this means that we will be checking for bacterial growth on the agars. If the agar has no bacterial growth or only has normal bacterial flora this will be input into the computer and reported out to the requesting clinician. The pathogenic isolates are then forwarded to a doctor to review and then sent for antimicrobial susceptibility testing.
During my shift
The majority of my shift will involve plate reading. This usually lasts until about lunchtime, but this really will depend on how many samples were received the previous day and how complex the samples and bacterial growths are. After I have finished with my main job of plate reading, I will either move through to the Antimicrobial susceptibility section to help report out the results or I will go up to the ‘processing section’ where all the samples are received, clinical information checked and agar plates are selected and inoculated. This section will get very busy in the afternoon once all the GP deliveries start arriving.
End of my shift
At the end of the shift, I will check what staff I have working dayshift the next day and write up the daily task board so that when the staff come in the will know what tasks they will be doing. I also pass on any important information onto the senior in charge of backshift to inform them if there are any issues they need to be aware of.
Backshifts are the busiest of shifts, the main tasks in this shift are setting the samples up on agars and incubating them so that they are ready for checking for bacterial growth the following morning. Since there is such a large volume of workload arriving, samples will need to be separated out and checked so that we can prioritise the emergency/urgent samples. At the end of the shift, I will ensure everything has been incubated and tidied away. I will hand over to the nightshift person passing on any information of any issues they need to be made aware of.
This is the least busy shift, as only hospital samples will arrive. The main duties on this shift is plating up the samples onto agars and processing positive blood cultures and phoning out the gram stain result of these. Since this is usually a quiet shift I use the time to catch up on ‘paperwork’ such as acknowledging SOP’s on Qpulse, eKSF, reading over portfolios and typing up staff competencies.