Shadowing a DoctorMarch 28, 2012
Biomedical science is an interesting choice of medical career as it is one of the few which, after qualifying, will suit you for jobs outside medicine if you find that the hospital environment is not for you. Studying for a Biomedical Science degree will enable you to also work in the pharmaceuticals industry, environmental health or veterinary laboratories, forensics or research. Another great thing about a biomedical sciences qualification is that within the hospital laboratory there are many different disciplines, which all need special skills.
You will need science subjects at A level as well as maths and English at GSCE, but you will also need a certain mindset to become a proficient biomedical scientist. You will certainly need to be meticulous and have an eye for detail and you will need to not bore easily. Although the job is fascinating, especially at the research end, much of it is repetitive and if you don’t feel you can bring the same degree of attention to each batch of tests you carry out, no matter how often you have done the same routine procedure, then the discipline is not for you. The crossmatch of blood for transfusion or the test for liver disease might be the thousandth you have done this month, but for the patient it is a unique event and must be treated as such, every time.
When you study biomedical science you will study human physiology in health and disease as well as laboratory techniques. Some of these will not be ones that you will ever use in a work setting, but it is important to go to first principles and if you ever decide to take time out to work in an underprivileged setting abroad, it would be unreasonable to expect there to be high powered machinery on site to help you. Being able to make your own growth media to isolate bacteria by boiling up blood and agar will probably not be necessary in a UK hospital, but it certainly would be a useful skill in the field.
It is not essential, but to study biomedical science and to enjoy your work subsequently, it is useful to be of a moderately mechanical turn of mind. Most machines nowadays are not intended to be mended at the bench by a user, being mainly made up of sealed units, but routine maintenance will certainly be necessary and with many laboratories these days running more or less twenty four hours a day by using shifts, there is little down time so planning is essential. A badly maintained machine will break down more often and also the results may become unreliable. Your training will give you basic ideas of how important maintenance is, but you will probably not become fully conversant with machinery used in the workplace until you have qualified.
Once you have qualified, you will need to become State Registered and this is done through the Council for Professions Supplementary to Medicine. Hopefully, the graduate will have made sure that their course is acceptable to the Institute of Biomedical Science; if not they may need to prove that they are competent. The Institute will help the potential student check on their proposed course and make sure it meets their requirements and this is a very important step to take in the first instance before applying.