Saturday, December 16

Review the career options available to a graduate with a degree in B.Sc (Hons) Biomedical Science

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In modern days, biomedical science is a specialised area which deals with a large range of roles with regards to health not only to patients but possibly animals too. A person who specialises within biomedical science is known as a biomedical scientist. With their knowledge and experience within toxicological study; blood transfusion, anaemia, meningitis, hepatitis and HIV are just a few conditions that a biomedical scientist would diagnose and furthermore work closely with a doctor in order to cure (If no known cure then aid) the situation (NHS Careers, Unknown). The role is a vital part within the National Health Service (NHS) and without these professionals; health and life expectancy would not be as high as currently present.

In order to become a biomedical science, the completion of a biomedical science degree which furthermore allows the registration with the Institution of Biomedical Science (IBMS) must occur. Once acceptation has been achieved and registration has been accomplished; the registrant will receive an IBMS Certificate of Competence (Prospects, Unknown).The IBMS is the professional body for biomedical scientists. The role of this organisation is to set standards for registrants with regards to behaviour, careers development, education, award appropriate qualifications when relevant and promote biomedical science. The institute was founded in 1912 and represents over 19,000 members from various backgrounds; predominantly in healthcare but also Universities, veterinary laboratories, government agencies and various other services (IBMS, Unknown).

 A graduate wishing to work within a health care profession will also be required to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) (NHS Careers, Unknown). The HCPC are responsible for protecting the public with regards to the practice of biomedical science. They are a small council consisting of just twenty members; ten registrants and ten lay members (HCPC, Unknown). This organisation sets standards of health, behaviour, character, proficiency, performance, ethics and training. The standards must be followed in order for the practitioner to remain a registrant. The HCPC also aids employers through job application processes.

 Once the conditions to become a legal biomedical science have been achieved there are various options which can be considered especially within the employment area. Although becoming specialised within one of these areas is possible, they are competitive and most biomedical science roles require more training and further education. Work experience in some cases can also be essential and if not, more advantageous with regards to competition. 61% of biomedical graduates enter employment and 45% of them work as a health care professional (Prospects, Unknown). Licensees that pursue a career within an area of biomedicine specialise in clinical chemistry, cytology, haematology, histopathology, immunology, medical microbiology, transfusion science or virology (NHS Careers, Unknown).

Clinical biochemists generally work in a hospital or a clinical pathology lab (NHS Careers, Unknown). Within the area of clinical chemistry, employees focus on the analytical statistics of blood within patients. It has been identified that within today’s cost/benefit analysis that the use of laboratorial services becomes even more important and therefore early detection of the predicaments a clinical biochemist could potentially identify is essential (Marshall, 1988). Using the apparatus and their knowledge they have the ability to detect diabetes, test the liver and kidney function, detect poisons, drug misuse and monitor the progress of treatment (Webb, 2009). Their work also includes group population screening.

Cytology; the study of cells is carried out within a specialised area of biomedical science. Scientists study cellular material from almost any part of the body predominately cancerous cells. Within this area, exfoliated cells from either epithelial surfaces or cells that have been removed from various tissues are interpreted in order to identify any potential anomalies. Screening cervical smears is also a very large proportion of the role (Webb, 2009). It has been noted that in the past 10-15 years, leukaemia diagnostics have advanced and higher cancer survival rates are now achieved (Agarwal, 2005). This has been achieved due to the expertise of biomedical scientists specialising within this area alongside the advancement of technology.   

Haematology is a very large area of biomedical science carrying out the morphology and physiology of blood (Institute of Biomedical Science, Unknown). This subject has become very progressive over the century and is considered to be the forefront of medicine as the knowledge of the topic has grown considerably rapid (Hoffbrand and Moss, 2011). Due to the forerunning advances it is therefore vital that the specialist keeps up to date within the discipline. As the study of blood continues many changes have occurred within the subject and treatment/methods have now substantially improved than before. A biomedical science who has specialise within this area will generally work in A&E, intensive care, operating theatres, special care baby units and oncology. Within this discipline a variety of procedures are carried out including counting blood cells, identifying abnormalities relating to the morphology of blood, estimating levels of haemoglobin present and identifying any issues present within blood coagulation. Furthermore carrying out these tests leads to diagnosing conditions such as leukaemia, anaemia and haemophilia.

In the study of histopathology, experts investigate diseases in relation to tissues and cells (NHS, Unknown). According to Ivan Damnjanov; author of Histopathology a Colour Atlas and Textbook (1996), histopathology is essential within the understanding of pathology and therefore the basis of medicinal practice. Within this area, serious investigations are carried out such as cancer management and the grading of tumours.  Autopsies are also performed in order to understand the cause of the disease and identify the pathogen responsible. Generally licensees that specialise within this area work closely with scientists and doctors in order to achieve the objectives. The biomedical scientist’s role is to investigate the smaller specimens using microscopy in order to identify any potential predicaments.

Immunology is the study of the nature and physiology of the human bodies defence mechanisms. The immune system is a very complex arrangement within the human body and as the knowledge of the system is progressed, there are more things that remain unknown to science (Holborow and Greeves, 1983). A biomedical scientist who has specialised within this area has a role of diagnosing abnormalities and disturbances related to immunity with regards to conditions such as HIV/AIDS, allergies, leukaemia and tumours (Webb, 2009). Tissues and organ transplants are also a vital area concerned with the role of the scientist (NHS Careers, Unknown).  The discipline has become an immense benefit to the population and can be considered one of the most versatile research tools within biology and medicine furthermore; a weapon for the prevention and management of microbial infections (Kameswara, Unknown). With the knowledge of this area, millions of lives have been saved due to vaccination and treatment to pathogens.

Medical microbiology is the study of microorganisms from a medical background term. Scientists who specialise within this area will study the causes of infection, transmission and pathophysiology. Lives are dependent upon the knowledge of the scientist and inadequate knowledge within the field can lead to fatalities (Kandel and McKane, 1986). The isolation of different microbes is carried out by the medical scientist and then susceptibility is tested against antibodies. Meningitis and tuberculosis are just two of the potentially fatal diseases an expert within this field deal will deal with (Webb, 2009). 

Blood transfusion is another area a registered biomedical scientist can specialise in. The role of these experts is to identify individual blood groups and to test donated blood with the compatibility with patients (Webb, 2009). In today’s society, tens of millions of units of blood and its components are transferred annually and due to the grouping of blood and the potential threats posed if a patient receives the wrong type of blood, experts with superior knowledge are required for this specialised area (Klein and Anstee, 2005).

The final career path a biomedical scientist can specialise in is virology. Virology is a rapidly progressing career path which studies viral cells to great depth including transmission and pathophysiology. Within this discipline from a clinical point, cause, diagnosis, treatment and prevention are important aspects related to the role of the scientist (Zuckerman et al, 2004). HIV, rubella, hepatitis and influenza are just four examples of the types of pathogens a biomedical scientist specialising in virology would study, diagnose and provide route for treatment (Webb, 2009).

After explaining each individual career path it is identifiable that the role of a biomedical science is extremely important in modern day society and many lives with the addition of expanded life expectancy has been achieved due to experts working in the area. A very large proportion of responsibility is required in order to carry out the career. False diagnosis, misinterpretations and accidents can have serious consequences and can be fatal to patients. It is also identifiable that anyone who specialises within the area must keep up to date with scientific advancement and knowledge. All the disciplines stated have changed drastically over the century due to the advancement in science and the ability to improve methods. Failure to keep up to date with such changes could result in not offering the best plan of action for the patient’s predicament. It is therefore conclusive that the knowledge of microbiology, immunology, pathology, cytology and haematology are all essential subjects which a qualified biomedical science must have a thorough understanding of regardless of which area they decide to specialise in.

Although there are various career paths within science that can be pursued, there are also various jobs available worldwide which just require a degree regardless of the subject. Some graduates may not wish to go straight into employment and may go through an academic path. 26% of biomedical graduates go onto do further study and sometimes laboratory work is interrelated into these programs (Prospects, Unknown). It is possible for a graduate to do a second degree such as dentistry, medicine or veterinary and become either a dentist, doctor or a vet. Other degree holders decide to go on to do a Masters or a Ph.D. These additional qualifications along with others can allow graduates to advance and become lecturers, journal writers or even researchers. An article produced within The Journal of Experimental Biology and Medicine (2006) explains recruitment in relation to drug development. Generally successful candidates must have ethical and regulatory considerations with subject relevance regarding drug development programs. The role is considered to be complex and thorough academia is required in order to achieve succession into this role.

In conclusion, it is evident that after graduation, there are many opportunities available for a degree holder. There are various science avenues to pursue and specialise in. As mentioned there are also options available for second degrees to specialise within areas such as dentistry and medicine or there are options for further research. Even if the graduate does not wish to specialise within the science industry there are many other jobs available which require a graduate regardless of which subject area they had studied. It is believed that 60.8% of graduates  become employed, 20.5% enter further study, 5.4% work and incorporate study, 7.3% remain unemployed which 6% are classified as “other” (Prospects, Unknown). If a scientific career is pursued however, it is vital to understand the seriousness of the role and the potential dangers that could be produced if responsibility and capability are not incorporated into the work place. Both the IBMS and HCPC rules and regulations are to be taken to very serious measures in order to not only remain a registered biomedical scientist but also to avoid legal issues.  

By Matthew Cook

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