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Laboratory Assistant
About the placement/internship

Why did you decide to do a placement/internship?

I decided to carry out my placement at this institute as I've had an Interest in skin diseases for a number of years. I had previously carried out work experience in the dermatology department at St. Georges hospital but I wanted to find out what happened to the biopsies taken by the dermatologist hence I opted to gain this insight from St. Johns dermatopathology institute.

How did you find your placement/internship?

Organisation website

Application process

The application was very straightforward. I discovered the website and emailed the head of lab (Dr Orchard Guy) and asked if it would acceptable for me to carry out a placement over the summer. To this he agreed and I just had to finalise the necessary paperwork with his secretary over the course of the months leading onto the placement.

What made you choose this organisation for your placement/internship?

This organisation is the UKs leading clinical dermatology clinic thus I new I would be exposed to to a wide range of skin diseases and gain a good insight into the processes that go into finally making a diagnosis.

Main responsibilities

My main responsibilities included shadowing the medical lab assistants and senior biomedical scientist. I was provided with a note book and had to keep a record of all the things I observed. Later on I was given the responsibility of carrying out the role of a medical lab assistant which features; answering calls, filling up the required reagents. Collecting and matching patient biopsy blocks and pairing them up accurately to the patients paperwork and basic maintenance of the lab.

Typical day

A typical day consisted of attending the daily morning staff meeting whereby the cases we had were discussed as well the ones we had to prioritise. Next, I would observe a senior biomedical scientist in the cut up room which is where the biopsies taken by the surgeons are further dissected into the specific suspected areas. These are later on processed and embedded into wax blocks by a chemical process in a machine. My role would be to collect these blocks and pair them up with the respective patient details and hand them over to a biomedical scientist who will then thinly slice them using a microtome and then prepare them into stained slides. These would then be quality controlled by looking down the microscope by another senior biomedical scientist before lastly being relayed to the pathologist who will conclude a final diagnosis. In addition to witnessing and facilitating this chain of steps, I would be at the front bench, arranging the patients blocks into an orderly file and putting away the paper work as well as running the necessary errands. I also got the opportunity to go to Guy's hospital branch where I witnessed slow Mohs.

What did I enjoy about my placement/internship?

I thoroughly enjoyed the ambience during my placement. The members of staff were very friendly and willing to show me all the important things and give me advice even regarding my future career plans. They ensured I was able to fully grasp the scope of the job as a scientist in a histology lab and feel as part of the team.

Challenging aspects

The challenging aspects of the placement was trying to always find something to do. Within the first few days I had started to grasp the extent of the job so it was a matter of finding something to do so I wouldn't get bored but also still able to gain the most that I can out of the placement. Another challenging aspect was ensuring I didn't make any errors. As I had started carrying out the role of a lab assistant, I was responsible for filing away patient details and paring their appropriate blocks so any misfiling or mismatching would have severe implications and this did happen on two occasions and after a few hours of searching all was sorted out.

Did you use any skills learned from your course?

My course was different to what I carried out my placement in as I study biochemistry but my placement was a histology lab. This meant I couldn't use many of the skills I gained. Nonetheless, analytical skills,the ability to ask vital questions and how to operate in the lab which were developed throughout my course proved helpful in my placement.

Has your time on placement influenced your future career choice?

My time on my placement helped me really consider my future career choice and the emphasis on doing something that you can enjoy. It also helped me understand the importance of researching and finding out as much as possible about the opportunities there are out there.

As a result of your placement/internship, what are your next steps in planning what you want to do after graduation?

I am now aware as to the route I have to take to become a clinical scientist but I am still keeping my options opened for my other interests.

Advice to students

My piece of advice to students

My piece of advice would be to look for placements as soon as you can and keep up to date with the application process. Try to do it somewhere that you'd enjoy and that closely matches your future career choice so you know exactly what you could be getting yourself into. Make the most out of it even if it's not going how you'd plan! Don't just sit around, try to make yourself useful, ask questions and build a friendly rapport to not only network but create a good impression:

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Form completed: 17 Sep 2019

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