Which skills does it take to make a good biomedical scientist?
Individuals must register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), and in order to do this they must meet their Standards of Education and Training. This requires completion of a biomedical science degree or apprenticeship accredited by the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS), and successful verification of the IBMS registration training portfolio in an IBMS-approved training laboratory.
For those who don’t have an IBMS-accredited degree, it is possible to request an IBMS degree assessment. This will identify whether additional education (sometimes referred to as top-up modules) is required. For more information from the IBMS, click here.
So congratulations – you’ve achieved the above, but which qualities actually make a good biomedical scientist (BMS)?
Well, from my experience, I believe many of the skills that are needed are transferable and can have been nurtured outside of the laboratory.
A professional attitude rates highly. Our role is to support the patient pathway and to always act in the best interests of the patient. This includes appreciating the limits of our practice and knowing when to ask for help.
Self-management is extremely important. The ability to be able to organise one’s workload, to prioritise tasks and be able to meet deadlines are all skills that can be learnt elsewhere and applied in a laboratory setting. Timekeeping is a must, whether it be in terms of shifts and breaks, or performance and interpretation of tests. Both time and resources are precious commodities in the NHS so self-directed learning is refreshing to see and is a proactive approach for those who are keen to develop and do well.
Communication on all levels is necessary, whether it be verbal, written or through the use of IT systems. Working in partnership with other professionals, support staff and other service users including patients can all be part of the job. Interpersonal skills, in addition, are required within the laboratory, working with autonomy but also as part of a team. It is important to recognise leadership and the contributions of your colleagues.
In conjunction with comprehensive training there must be the ability to follow and understand written tasks such as Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). The need to complete and maintain accurate records is vital, whether it be quality control checks on standard data recording forms or the interim test results for patient specimens. In microbiology, work on a given sample may be processed by different BMSs at different stages; recording clear concise results at each stage is therefore paramount if accurate and reliable reports are to be produced.
Previous experience of research is also a valuable asset. The NHS is increasingly under pressure to provide tests that are fit for purpose. It is important to stay abreast of current developments in the diagnostic arena, considering factors such as sample type, sensitivity, specificity, turnaround time, ease of use, laboratory footprint and cost. Consequently there are often laboratory projects to test new kits and validation and verification requirements.
Familiarity with quality systems is also useful since the desire for laboratories to be accredited and secure contracts is considerable. Application of quality assurance and quality control processes is now commonplace, ensuring that the right result is available for the right patient at the right time.
Working within a laboratory comes with its own set of health and safety requirements. Working in accordance with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and the regulations that pair with it, in the laboratory means that all staff are familiar with COSHH and RIDDOR, regulations that are widespread in many work environments. We all have an obligation to work safely for the benefit of not just ourselves but also those around us. This leads me to my final point; we are all as important as each other. Recognising equality and diversity and working in a non-discriminatory manner, whether in terms of patient specimens or each other, is a basic requirement. My colleagues and I work hard and are committed to our jobs for the benefit of the patient, often going above and beyond. If you think you share the qualities described here, maybe becoming a BMS could be the job for you! The NHS needs you and hopefully you will decide to join our profession. Interviews are stressful situations but no one is trying to catch you out; try to relax, smile and engage with your interviewer. 😊