What are healthcare scientists (HCS)?

Healthcare scientists

Healthcare scientists cover a wide variety of roles. Whether you're interested in a career as a healthcare scientist, or you're a patient who wants to know more about scientists at UHDB, we've got all the information you need.

Who are healthcare scientists?

Biomedical scientists are responsible for carrying out a number of different laboratory and scientific tests on human tissue and fluid samples to help clinicians diagnose, treat and manage a vast array of diseases and disease processes.

Our work as biomedical scientists covers many medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, Immunodeficiency related disease and diseases that require regular monitoring and emergency tests for blood transfusions to name but a few! In fact nearly 80% of clinical diagnoses involve pathology.

Biomedical scientists are generally non-patient facing, and can specialise in one of the four following areas:

  • Infectious Sciences – Microbiology and Virology
  • Blood Sciences – Chemistry, Haematology, Immunology and Transfusion Science
  • Cellular Sciences – Histopathology and Cytology
  • Genetic and Molecular Pathology

What do healthcare scientists do?

As a biomedical scientist, you will work within a team alongside other healthcare workers, support workers, doctors and nurses. Working as a team you will ensure that each patient sample is received, processed and reported within a timely and accurate manner to ensure the best possible result for the patient.

Some of your main duties as a biomedical scientist include:

  • Performing routine and specialist tests on a range of samples. This may involve the complex operation of specialist equipment within the Biochemistry laboratory and/or good hand to eye coordination skills such as dissecting a colon resection for a tumour within the Histopathology Laboratory.
  • Ensuring patient samples are processed within an acceptable time frame to ensure agreed turnaround times are met and reports are available to the clinician.
  • Prioritising workloads and managing urgent cases effectively.
  • Being able to identify abnormal results and troubleshoot any issues whilst reporting back to the clinician to inform them of any problems encountered with the specimen.
  • Record data accurately and share results with other members of staff to ensure the service has the opportunity to reflect and continually improve service.
  • Supervise, mentor and train other biomedical scientists and support staff within the workplace whilst maintaining up to date professional knowledge (CPD).
  • Managing the day to day running of the laboratory, dealing with HR issues and performing performance appraisals for fellow colleagues within the department.

What qualifications do healthcare scientists need?

Generally, you will need to complete a BSc (HONS) degree in Biomedical Science accredited by the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS). IBMS accredited degrees can be offered full-time, part-time, sandwich and integrated.

You will also need to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

As a biomedical scientist you can progress from:

  • Trainee biomedical scientist – band 5
  • Newly qualified biomedical scientist - band 5
  • Specialist biomedical scientist - band 6
  • Senior biomedical scientist – band 7 (May require a MSc degree)
  • Advanced Healthcare Scientist/Expert Biomedical Scientist – 8a and above

Why I became a healthcare scientist

Healthcare / biomedical scientists have extremely variable roles, depending upon the department that they work in and their specialism.

In some areas of pathology the work is very manual with biomedical scientists preparing chemicals, handling samples and using microscopes. In other areas, the processes are highly automated and the biomedical scientists use their skills to interpret vast amounts of data as well as monitor and maintain extremely complicated equipment. Other areas are combination of these activities.

At the end of the day however, whichever department we work in and whatever our specialist role, we all know that helping to make a fast and accurate diagnosis for each and every patient we test will improve their chance of a successful treatment and happy outcome.