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Frequently asked questions about careers and training

What does a Clinical Scientist do?

Clinical scientists, medical Consultants and biomedical scientists (BMSs) are all involved in providing the Clinical Biochemistry service in hospitals. Skilled biomedical scientists carry out most of the day-to-day analytical work. Both clinical scientists and biomedical scientists may carry out complex and unusual analytical work. Clinical scientists and medical staff are responsible for the provision, appropriate use and development of the service. Medical staff may also be involved in direct patient care for example lipid, diabetic, endocrine and bone disease clinics and in the hospital nutrition team. The Clinical scientist is expected to bring a major scientific and innovative approach to the service. This can involve carrying out specialist analyses; developing and implementing new techniques (often collaborating with colleagues in industry or universities) and liaison with clinical staff - advising on relevant analyses and interpreting the results. Clinical liaison frequently leads to participation in research activities, and teaching departments often have their own programme of basic research.

Opportunities for service development and clinical research are open to virtually all clinical biochemists, as are opportunities for audit of service use. Laboratories participate in local and national quality assurance schemes to ensure a high standard of analytical performance. Clinical Scientists are often involved in organising and operating these schemes, which enable the performance of different laboratories or different methods to be compared. Laboratories make extensive use of information technology, and many more senior clinical scientists participate in management, and can become Heads of Department, either permanently or in rotation with a medical colleague. There are also opportunities to develop management roles within the NHS. Most clinical scientists obtain higher professional qualifications such as Fellowship of the Royal College of Pathologists (FRCPath) and play an important role in teaching activities both within the hospital and outside.

Other career opportunities

Many clinical scientists develop substantial research and teaching interests. They often have honorary University appointments and it is possible, particularly in Teaching Hospitals, to move between NHS and University career structures. Other clinical scientists develop particular interests in methodology and analytical techniques, and their background and training opens many employment opportunities in the diagnostics and pharmaceutical industries. These opportunities range from pure research through technical support for sales and marketing to medical information specialists and senior management posts.

(This page is maintained by the ACB Education Committee)

Updated 16th July 2013

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