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My CUH Story - Gemma Harvey

Gemma Harvey is a specialist biomedical scientist in the haematology lab. This year Gemma is celebrating 20 years of work at CUH! Below, Gemma told us about her journey to becoming a specialist biomedical scientist and working at Addenbrooke’s.

Image of Gemma Harvey

My first introduction to CUH was via Anglia news and the great things it mentioned about the hospital and the work happening there. So, in 2001 I started as a ward assistant working evenings and Saturdays whilst at university studying biomedical science. I had always wanted to do something science related and was recommended to study biomedical science at a University open day. I discovered that medical laboratory assistant was the entry level role but to become a biomedical scientist required an accredited degree, particularly if I wanted to specifically work in an NHS hospital laboratory. This all sounded interesting, so I took the required modules at that time, whilst discovering which speciality I might be interested in working in.

I became a full time medical laboratory assistant (MLA) whilst doing a work based portfolio as an accredited degree and a work based portfolio are required to register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). Then in 2010 I qualified as a biomedical scientist and worked in the main diagnostic lab at Addenbrooke’s, specialising in haematology. I learnt all my haematology knowledge and skills through on the job learning and studying for two work based portfolios.

Biomedical scientists require a lot of theoretical and practical knowledge as well as skills and for these to be kept up to date. A usual day for me involves a lot of routine work looking at computer screens, interpreting graphical plots and numerical results, the majority of these can be only slightly out of range but you never know what you might notice in a patients results. If I see anything abnormal I would take urgent action and do additional tests including a blood film to confirm what’s happening. If there are critical results, I phone the area where the patient is directly, this can sometimes require additional work trying to locate the patient. I also answer queries about results and testing and check our analysers have been maintained and have passed their safety checks.

My role massively benefits patients, yet you would never know I’m here. When I diagnosed my first positive malaria result and told the emergency department of this diagnosis I felt immense pride.

Biomedical scientists inform so many clinical teams of complex information and results that directly benefit numerous patients, and the department works 24/7, we work well as a team and need everyone in the teams support.

When I diagnosed my first positive malaria result and told the emergency department of this diagnosis I felt immense pride. If you’re the only biomedical scientist on a shift and there’s a real urgency for the correct diagnosis, confirming a diagnosis so a patient can receive the correct treatment early is so rewarding, especially as sometimes these are life threatening situations.

We care even though we don’t actually see any of our patients.

Diagnosing complex and unusual results, working out what could be wrong, especially if you notice something that needs urgent action and knowing the patient has been started on their appropriate treatment, is what we are here for.

This being said,. the role of a biomedical scientist has completely changed since I started in 2001 and is now more automated with less manual intervention. At CUH we now have a refurbished and extended lab, but we have had to work in temporary spaces during the refurbishment which has been challenging.

There are a lot of interesting cases that we see as part of being a teaching hospital, which I really enjoy being part of, it feels very familiar despite growing bigger and bigger; at least until I have to find somewhere new on the ever expanding site!

I learn more and more each year and I am proud to work for CUH, it means a lot the 20 year long service award.