Comment: Unsung heroes who support those on the front line of modern medicine

WHEN PEOPLE think about science they may think about school laboratories, white-coated professors or flasks of bubbling liquid. But how many think of biomedical science? Probably not many, but I can guarantee that every person in Britain will, at some time in their lives, have benefited from the professional skills of a biomedical scientist.

The large majority of biomedical scientists work in hospital pathology laboratories analysing the 150 million patient samples that are sent to them each year. But they may also work in the National Blood Service, the Health Protection Agency, research laboratories and even in the medical corps of the armed forces. Biomedical scientists are nothing if not versatile although they are among the least recognised members of the healthcare workforce.

Biomedical scientists, like doctors and nurses, operate a vital 24-hour service. Whenever a major incident occurs, pathology is one of the first departments to be involved: large numbers of people may need large quantities of blood and it's the biomedical scientists that ensure that the right amount of the right blood reaches the right patient at the right time. Vital blood chemicals are measured to monitor patient condition and to detect signs of internal bleeding. Organ transplants could not take place without the support of the biomedical scientists and premature babies would have an even greater struggle to survive without the input from the laboratory.

Biomedical scientists are key players in disease diagnosis and monitoring, with 70 per cent of all diagnosis being based on pathology results. It may not be high profile, but biomedical science is a profession that definitely carries a feel-good factor.

Apart from the human aspects of the work, laboratories are fascinating places in which to work. Modern pathology laboratories are the hi-tech hub of a hospital with a large and uniquely talented workforce. Chemistry and haematology laboratories hum with the sound of analysers capable of processing thousands of samples a day, while microbiology has banks of incubators providing a perfect controlled environment for growing cultures of bacteria. Histology is for those who prefer a more hands-on approach to science. Every single tissue sample taken during surgery is sent to the histology laboratory for analysis. These specimens may range from tiny biopsies to whole organs or limbs. This may sound somewhat gory, but once processed and viewed down a microscope, the reward is obvious: the microscopic study of cells and tissues is like entering another world of fascinating shapes and patterns - definitely the option for the scientist with art at heart.

Science is constantly changing and developing and biomedical science is no exception. As healthcare moves from the traditional hospital environment into the community, pathology is moving too. Biomedical scientists are now increasingly found working with general practitioners in surgeries and community clinics helping to provide a diagnostic service to patients for a range of conditions. There are also opportunities to teach and train other staff groups such as nurses to perform simple tests in clinics and surgeries or to move roles within healthcare into management.

So why consider working in biomedical science? One good reason is that it offers an interesting and rewarding career. Another is that it offers a range of opportunities for career development. All biomedical scientists are graduates and many go on to do higher degrees. In addition there is a range of professional qualifications offered by the Institute of Biomedical Science, the professional body that works for, and with, biomedical scientist. These optional qualifications assist individuals who wish to develop advanced specialist skills in order to take on the most senior levels of responsibility. Most people will have heard of the "modern matrons" and nurse consultants, who are top-level individuals who have been enabled to progress beyond the traditional professional ceiling. Similar opportunities now exist for biomedical scientists with the appropriate qualifications and expertise who want to reach the top of their profession.

So next time there are frantic scenes of a hospital drama on our television screens or there is a news report of more casualties injured in another bomb explosion, remember there is a connection between the factual tragedy and the fictional entertainment: in both situations there are biomedical scientists working behind the scenes helping those on the front line to stay in front.

Edward Welsh is President of the Institute of Biomedical Science

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
News
i100
Life and Style
tech

Apple agrees deal with Visa on contactless payments

Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

    £55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

    Technical Software Consultant (Excel, VBA, SQL, JAVA, Oracle)

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: You will not be expected to hav...

    Technical Sales Manager

    £45000 - £53000 Per Annum plus bonus plus package: The Green Recruitment Compa...

    Humanities Teacher

    £110 - £135 per day + Competitive Rates: Randstad Education Maidstone: Outstan...

    Day In a Page

    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor