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
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
fashionLidl to launch a new affordable fashion range
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
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

    Web Analyst – Permanent – West Sussex – Up to £43k

    £35000 - £43000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

    .NET Developer

    £650 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer ASP.Net, C#.net, WCF, WPF, .N...

    Principal Arboricultural Consultant

    £35000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Principal Arboricu...

    Trainee Digital Forensic Analyst

    £17000 - £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Trainee Digital Fo...

    Day In a Page

    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
    Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

    But could his predictions of war do the same?
    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

    Young at hort

    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

    Beyond a joke

    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

    A wild night out

    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

    Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

    It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
    Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

    Besiktas vs Arsenal

    Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

    As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

    Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

    The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

    But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

    Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

    Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment