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Clinical scientist - tissue typing: job description

Clinical scientist - tissue typing: job description

Tissue typing clinical scientists are responsible for genetically matching patients with possible organ and stem cell (including bone marrow) donors.
The terms 'histocompatibility' or 'immunogenetics' also cover the same areas as tissue typing clinical science.

What does a tissue typer do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Clinical tissue typers analyse specimens of blood, tissues and so on via computer-aided and detailed scientific testing procedures. Most of their work is laboratory based. Key tasks include:

  • using molecular techniques to routinely tissue type patients and donors
  • assigning donors and patients according to tissue type
  • undertaking donor/patient screening to identify particular antibodies
  • isolating, measuring and cataloguing DNA samples
  • isolating and preserving lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell important to the immune system)
  • undertaking bone marrow transplant cellular assessments
  • offering advice to clinicians about best donor/patient matches

Other responsibilities include:

  • laboratory management
  • writing reports
  • maintaining computerised records
  • participating in research and development activities

Typical employers of tissue typing clinical scientists

  • NHS Blood and Transplant
  • Immunology department of NHS hospitals
  • The Anthony Nolan Trust
  • Teaching hospitals and universities

See the British Society for Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics website for information about job vacancies and training courses. Vacancies are also advertised on the NHS website and in specialist periodicals such as New Scientist.

Qualifications and training required

A degree in a relevant subject such as biochemistry, chemistry, immunology or genetics is required for entry. A postgraduate qualification, research work, hospital laboratory placements and/or experience gained using similar scientific and analytical techniques can be beneficial.

To work within the NHS, you will need to complete the scientist training programme (STP) after your degree. 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 for Healthcare Science (ACHS). 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.

If you do not have a degree, you can apply to the NHS practitioner training programme (PTP). This is an undergraduate training programme, during which you will complete an accredited BSc in healthcare science. Life science graduates (blood science, infection science, cellular science and genetics science) can apply for registration with the HCPC. Physiological and physical science graduates can apply for Professional Standards Authority (PSA) Accredited Voluntary Registration via the ACHS.

You can find out more about getting into careers in science as a school leaver from our school leaver website TARGETcareers.

Key skills for tissue typing clinical scientists

  • Ability to work quickly and accurately
  • A logical and inquisitive mind
  • Good experimental and research skills
  • Communication skills
  • Teamwork skills

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