Following the positive response from my posts about being a biomedical scientist and the emails that I received asking about my placement, I thought that I’d chat about my own experiences working within an NHS laboratory.
Just as a disclaimer before I begin, obviously this post is a little bit more centered towards Biomedical Science students as they are the only ones who can complete the same type of placement I did within a hospital laboratory but I’ll try and include as much information about the placement process as well for any of you interested.
I completed my work placement within a Histology laboratory in an NHS hospital. My placement was 9 months long and whilst there I completed my;
- Diploma in Professional Practice – all placement students had to complete this no matter where their placement was (this was a qualification from my university and from what I gather, universities tend to offer varying versions of this).
- IBMS Registration Portfolio – this is a huge folder full of evidences that upon completion and assessment, you can become a member of the IBMS and register for the HCPC and work as a Biomedical Scientist in an NHS laboratory.
In order to work in an NHS laboratory as a Biomedical Scientist you must be registered with the HCPC and to do this you must have completed the IBMS registration portfolio and have had this verified – which I will go into more detail on in a second!
So first things first, find yourself a placement. These are normally advertised yearly on the NHS website or sometimes through your university hubs, but like me, if you want to get ahead of the curve or have a department/hospital that you really want to work in, drop the department an email! Ask if you can go and have a look around or simply express how interested you are in training in their lab. I can’t guarantee it will work, I had a lot of doors slammed in my face before one opened but keep at it, persevere, and you will do just fine!
Once you’ve got yourself a placement, have a look online at the department you are going to be working in. Familiarise yourself with what sort of things you will be expected to do and even what sort of things your hospital specialises in. The hospital I worked in specialised as a cancer screening hospital for the whole of the region, so I investigated that a bit before my placement so that I had a bit of background knowledge before the start date.
The start date – a very very daunting day…. but normally spent signing declarations and reading through SOP’s (Standard Operating Procedures). I’m not going to lie to you all, the first week is loooooooonnnnnngggggggggg and is basically getting you used to working in a laboratory. A hospital laboratory is completely different to a university lab and will take some getting used to, but you’ll be supported every step of the way and expected to complete competencies – training documents that show you understand how each procedure works within the lab.
Typically, NHS placements last for 9 months to a year and throughout this year you will cover most aspects of laboratory life and jobs that you would be expected to cover as a Band 5 Biomedical Scientist. Holding a degree in Biomedical Science means that you can enter into a lab hierarchy as a band 5, but you will probably be taught how to perform tasks that are expected of lower bands such as that of an MLA (medical laboratory assistant).
Alongside performing the job of a biomedical scientist you will also, as I mentioned before, complete your IBMS registration portfolio. Completing a placement in an NHS teaching laboratory is very worthwhile because you don’t only receive 9 months of intense training, but you can also complete your IBMS portfolio. I’ll include a link HERE to the IBMS website discussing the registration portfolio. The IBMS is the governing body of Biomedical Scientists, and to work in a hospital laboratory as a Biomedical Scientist, you need to have completed the IBMS Registration Portfolio and be registered with the HCPC. I was able to complete this during my placement, which means that when I graduate with my degree, I am already a registered Biomedical Scientist and can go straight into work in a hospital laboratory if I choose to. In a nutshell, the certificate of competence that you will receive after completion of BOTH your degree and registration portfolio will demonstrate that you have met the HCPC (which governs biomedical science) standards for registration as a biomedical scientist, in other words, you can do the job and you understand how to do it!
You receive your certificate after verification and completion of your degree. Verification is a process where an external examiner will come into your hospital lab, read over your portfolio and will be taken on a tour of the lab by yourself. They will ask you a few questions as you go but basically, the whole point of the tour is to check that you know what you are talking about and have actually learnt something during your placement year. It is a scary process but honestly, is absolutely fine once you get into it.
In terms of myself, my placement lasted for 44 weeks from September 2017 to June 2017, and it was such an amazing experience. Working as a Trainee Biomedical Scientist in Histology taught me so much and it gave me a good basis of knowledge to use during some of my final year modules and projects. I worked 9-5 Monday through to Friday and followed a rotational plan through the lab learning about tissue dissection, pathology and processing. I learnt how to use highly specialised equipment such as electron microscopes and microtomes, and by the end of the year, I was signed off at competent to work as a Biomedical Scientist in Histology. I was also able to learn more about hospital laboratories and how they interact with the rest of the hospital through going on daily theatre pickups for tissue that required testing and frequently visited the mortuary. Not only this, but my year allowed me to go on multiple training courses, and I now have qualifications in Immunohistochemistry and Microscopy that I would not have gained, had it not been for my placement.
My 9 months working in the hospital were amazing. Not only did it help improve my technical skills but it also really strengthened and developed my confidence in my degree. I was also lucky enough to be offered a job as a Trainee Biomedical Scientist when I finished my placement and worked there over the summer.
So if you get the opportunity, I really can’t recommend doing a placement enough. It provides you so much experience and allows you to develop as a scientist in a professional environment. I hope this post has inspired some of you to complete a placement in an NHS laboratory, and if you have any questions about how to apply to a hospital or prepare for interview, please feel free to leave a comment below or email me at email@example.com .
Until next time,