Clinical biochemist: job description
Clinical biochemists are responsible for testing patient samples and interpreting the results for medical staff. They work as part of a hospital medical team that is responsible for investigating and diagnosing patient illnesses.
Most of their time is spent in the laboratory analysing specimens of blood, tissues or urine using computer-aided and automated testing procedures. Other responsibilities include:
- designing experiments to test theories about how chemicals function in the body
- investigating abnormal biochemical conditions
- analysing chemicals in the body, using techniques such as gel electrophoresis and amino acid assay
- working closely with other scientists including chemists, pharmacologists and toxicologists
- keeping up to date with scientific literature connected with their work
- writing reports of findings
- applying for funding
- presenting findings at biochemistry meetings
Some evening and on-call work will be necessary. Part-time work is an option.
While there is a lot of crossover with biomedical science, clinical biochemists typically work within a medical setting, rather than an industrial or academic setting.
The NHS employs clinical biochemists, as do a number of commercial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals companies. There is strong competition for vacancies each year. Most of these are advertised by the NHS or in national newspapers and scientific journals such as New Scientist and Association of Clinical Biochemists News.
- The recruitment process is likely to involve a technical interview. Read our article on technical interviews to find out what these involve and how you can tackle them.
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In order to begin training with the NHS scientist training programme (STP) you will need a 2.1 degree or higher in a relevant BSc discipline such as biochemistry, chemistry or biology. Further research experience or qualifications are also desirable. The application process for the STP typically starts in January.
Scotland has separate training schemes, which also involve a three year STP or an equivalent programme.
After completing the STP, you can then apply for a certificate of attainment from the Academy of Healthcare Science. This will enable you to apply for registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
In order to practise as a clinical scientist in the UK, you must be registered with the HCPC. You will automatically be eligible to apply for registration if you have completed a HCPC approved course, but you will need to pay a fee for the HCPC to process your application, plus a registration fee, which is reduced by 50% if you graduated from an approved course within the last two years.
- The ability to work both independently and in a team
- Attention to detail
- Methodical and thorough approach
- Commitment to patient care in hospital settings
- Numerical and written skills
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