Monday 13 - Sunday 19 March is Healthcare Science Week 2023.
Healthcare Scientists (HCS) make an invaluable contribution to patient care at UHDB, covering a wide variety of different roles - primarily structured around four key disciplines: Physiological Sciences, Biomedical Sciences, Bioinformatics, and Medical Physics. However, Healthcare Scientists work in several fields beyond these, and their varied work is crucial to delivering effective patient care.
Healthcare Scientists typically perform a number of both pre- and post-treatment tests to support giving the correct diagnoses for patients, ensuring they are given the best possible and most effective treatments for a number of conditions.
For example, a healthcare scientist may conduct an antibody test to screen for the presence of antibodies in a patient's blood sample, which would indicate if a patient has been exposed to a particular virus or infection - helping in diagnosis and treatment planning. Alternatively, an another example would be a cholesterol test - which a healthcare scientist would conduct to measure the levels of various types of cholesterol in a patient's blood sample, assessing the patient's risk for developing heart disease and helping to guide treatment decisions.
There are almost 700 HCS within Derbyshire Pathology across UHDB and Chesterfield Royal Hospital. To illustrate just how active our Healthcare Scientists are, in the last year, over 15 million samples have been processed, with over 15,000 units of blood issued from our Blood Bank at Royal Derby Hospital.
As part of our celebrations of Healthcare Science Week 2023, Derbyshire Pathology have hosted an information and learning stand at Royal Derby Hospital to allow everybody to come and speak to our Healthcare Scientists and learn more about their roles.
In addition to this, we have spoken to two Healthcare Scientists about their roles: Robert James, a Clinical Vascular Scientist within Clinical Measurements; and Rachael Bailey, a Biomedical Scientist within Histology.
Meet our Healthcare Scientists
First, we spoke to Robert about his role and what it entails. As a Clinical Vascular Scientist, he works closely with consultants and surgeons, across many different wards, conducting tests relating to a wide variety of conditions and diseases affecting the circulatory system - spanning both pre- and post-treatment, getting involved in a patient's care at many different points.
Providing specialised advice based on their tests, the work of vascular scientists means that a diagnosis - and ruling out other unnecessary diagnostic treatment - can be determined through their work. The work of Robert and his colleagues helps patients receive timelier care and helps to maintain the flow of patients through our hospitals.
To Robert, 'ruling things out and ruling things in' are two sides of the same coin, with the ultimate benefit being seen by patients. He continued:
"What motivates me every day is that each patient we see is like a mini puzzle. Sometimes it's a real 'head-scratcher', sometimes it's a lot easier, and that variety is great.
"Ultimately, we all want to make sure our patients are on the right track, with the right diagnosis, and at the right time - and that challenge is what excites our team. The individual patient interactions are really important to the work we do.
"We also work to develop our service as a whole, building an approach that's more effective and multifaceted. In Clinical Measurement, we have people who are very passionate about different things, so we've all found our niche and have developed our team in lots of different ways.
"If I was to sum up what we do simply - it's physics, physiology and patient care. Sometimes it feels as though we are a bit in the background - and maybe some people may not even be aware that we're here - and that's why Healthcare Science Week is so important, giving us that opportunity to share the work we do and how it benefits the care of patients in almost every department."
Robert has also created a brilliant booklet of information for Healthcare Science Week 2023, largely covering the role of Physiological Science. You can read and download the document here: Healthcare Science Week 2023 - Physiological Science.pdf [pdf] 15MB
We also caught up with Rachael, who we spoke to last year when she had just received two awards from Nottingham Trent University upon completing her degree level apprenticeship in histopathology. Rachael was one of the first Level 6 Apprentices to complete the course and in October 2022, was runner-up in the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regional Apprenticeship Awards.
Histology, where Rachael is based at Royal Derby Hospital, receive samples for biopsies from different departments and then transforms and examines them to allow consultants to make diagnoses.
Rachel said at the time that: “Behind every sample is a patient, and behind them is a family.
“Just because you’re not in a patient-facing role as such, it doesn’t mean that the Trust’s values don’t apply – you know what a patient and their friends and family go through when they’re waiting for a diagnosis, and everything in this role is paramount to allow that to happen as quickly as possible.”
Almost one year on, Rachael said more specifically that her day-to-day role includes microtomy (which involves creating what is called 'stained slides' from tissues received from theatres, clinics and GP surgeries), performing 'special stains' (which is a process that allows areas of particular diagnostic cellular importance to be examined at a microscopic level), and conducting biopsy for various small tissue samples. Rachael also mentors Medical Laboratory Assistants (MLAs) - a role she assumed when she first joined UHDB in 2017 - and Associate Practitioners (APs) in Histology.
Reflecting on a very positive year and her role in the Trust, Rachael said:
"There are some things a textbook just can't teach you. The best part of my role is the hands-on, practical experience I get every day, learning from Senior Biomedical Scientists - some of whom have been qualified since before I was born!
"If you're thinking about becoming a Biomedical Scientist, here at UHDB or anywhere else, take on the challenge and take yourself out of your comfort zone. The path I've taken to get here has been the best decision I've ever made."
Royal Derby Hospital Blood Bank
In January 2021, we published a '360 degree' tour video of Royal Derby Hospital's Blood Bank Laboratory, a key area in all things Healthcare Science.