Biochemistry

Clinical Biochemistry is the study of the chemical composition of blood and other body fluids.

The Biochemistry service assists in the diagnosis and treatment of a whole range of diseases including diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, cancer and hormonal (endocrine) disorders.

Dr David Cartwright is the Lead Consultant and Tony Newcombe the Lead BMS (Tony.Newcombe@asph.nhs.uk). Biochemistry has 29 staff and work across both sites. Opportunities exist for trained and untrained staff.

Please check the NHS Jobs website for the latest information on Pathology jobs.


A Day in the Life ...
A Day in the Life of a Biomedical Scientist in Biochemistry

It’s 7pm on Sunday night and I’ve just taken over from my colleague who had quite a busy day and was therefore pleased to see me!

For the next 13 hours I shall be the Biomedical Scientist working the night shift for the department of Biochemistry at St. Peter’s Hospital, performing diagnostic blood tests on urgent samples taken from those patients who are need of urgent medical attention. I expect to get samples from the Accident and Emergency Department, from ITU, from the Special Care Baby Unit, the Maternity Unit, the childrens’ wards and from almost anywhere in the Hospital.

The first thing to do is to make checks on the huge automated analysers which are interfaced to the Pathology computer. I’m running the Quality Controls now which must produce results within strict ranges before I can run any patients’ blood tests. I’ll be making absolutely sure that the analysers are producing accurate results and that everything is documented.

My pager has just gone off – I have to phone Accident and Emergency – some bloods are coming down the air-chute system - they are from a 2 year old with a rash and possible meningitis. I make my way along the corridor to the Pathology Reception to look for the samples, and make a mental note that some time tonight they are quite likely to decide to take some cerebrospinal fluid for analysis from this patient.

I get to work on this tiny blood sample, carefully separating the serum from the blood cells, and before too long it is on the analyser and I can dash back to pick up the rest of the samples which are now arriving in quick succession .

The bleep has been going crazy and there is a lot to do – a road traffic accident patient has been brought into A/E, they don’t know his name yet so have given him a special emergency ID with a red ID number, they need results fast and have been talking to the shift Transfusion specialist too. We are working together now, a team of two for the moment, swiftly handling these urgent samples, checking them carefully, giving them unique computer ID, and entering data onto the computer which will interface with the analysers in both our departments. And then finally we are away to our laboratories.

These bloods go on next, the baby’s results are ready now, I check them, and then transmit them so that they are now available on the main hospital computer too. I pick up the phone – the doctor needs to know these straight away, it has one particular result which indicates an infection, it could be meningitis.

Rushing back to Reception, there are more bloods waiting, there is one from ITU - a post operative patient being closely monitored, one from a septic premature baby on Special Care, one from a cardiac patient on the assessment unit, another from a collapsed elderly lady in A/E, oh dear and there goes the bleep again! There’s a baby in Resus A/E with acute asthma and epileptic fit. There’s a little batch forming now but that’s fine, I’ll be able to put them all on together.

I’ll check those results on the RTA now – they don’t look too bad but phone them through to A/E anyway and ask if there is any news about the patient’s name yet.

By now it’s 5.00 a.m. and it’s become a little quieter, I’ve had 37 urgent samples so far tonight, and, yes, I did get a CSF from the first baby and it was treated for meningitis.

I have some checks to make on the analysers and some maintenance measures which keep them in good working order, so it’s a bit of TLC for the next hour. There are strict safety measures too in the laboratory so it’s a case of decontamination for some of the equipment and workstations. This quiet time is also good for making checks on the worklists for each work-section so that we keep completely up to date with all of the requested tests to ensure that nothing has been overlooked during the day. There are several sections in Biochemistry with both automated and manual tests using many kinds of analytical equipment. As state registered professionals we have a commitment to Continuous Professional Development and so there is always something to catch up on with planning of training and appraisal.

It’s about 6 o’clock now so I’m expecting lots of samples to arrive from those in-patients who are the most unwell and need the closest monitoring, namely those in ITU, SCBU, High Dependency Unit, and the Cardiac Care unit. Other urgent samples continue to arrive randomly.

At St. Peter’s and Ashford Hospitals we have recently established innovative shifts so that 32 qualified Biomedical Scientists in Biochemistry and Haematology each work just 37½ hours a week and provide 24 hour cover for both Hospital sites. There is also an increased amount of co-operative working between the 2 departments. There are many benefits to this new approach to the working week, with many more days off work for those taking part in the shifts

8 o’clock arrives and I’m delighted to hand over to my colleague, and especially delighted to hand over the bleep since I am now about to enjoy several days off work!