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My CUH Story – Jaqueline Pires

Jaqueline Pires is a trainee biomedical scientist. She is one of three CUH finalists at the 2022 Multicultural Apprenticeship Awards.

Jackie has very long dark brown hair. She is smiling widely and is wearing a white t-shirt and black dungarees.
Jaqueline Pires is a trainee biomedical scientist. She is one of three CUH finalists at the 2022 Multicultural Apprenticeship Awards.

I’m Jackie and I’m a trainee biomedical scientist in the tissue typing laboratory here at CUH. I joined CUH from Long Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge straight after my A Levels as a level 3 apprentice lab technician. I first found out about working in a laboratory at one of the CUH open evenings. I got to see many different departments and chat informally about the roles available. My first role was working in the same lab as I am now, so I was able to get a real insight as to what biomedical scientists do.

I was delighted when someone recognised my potential and suggested the degree apprenticeship course. So I’m now studying for a biomedical scientist degree alongside my work. It’s a four year course and I spend one day at university and four days here at CUH. The degree I am doing is accredited, which means I will become an HCPC registered biomedical scientist. This is important as joining the HCPC register means I am legally entitled to practice autonomously as a biomedical scientist in the UK.

Studying biomedical science enables you to develop a wide range of skills, including problem solving, teamwork, data handling and analysis, organisation, and communication.

Biomedical science as a field helps in the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of patients. So any samples that come to the lab, we process them, look at the results and authorise the results.

I’m not currently able to authorise results as I’m not a registered biomedical scientist yet. However, once I am registered I look forward to doing that. As a team we take part in on-call shifts, working out of hours to provide a 24 hour service to our hospitals.

The lab I work in is known as the Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics laboratory. Histocompatibility relates to tissue compatibility and transplant, and immunogenetics relates to genetics related diseases. We offer a comprehensive range of molecular and serological (antibody) techniques and as a team we rotate every six or 12 months to maintain competencies. We run testing days and reporting days and work closely with the person verifying to ensure timely results. We also cover the specimen reception and provide an on-call service.

When you’re on call, you’re aware that the results you provide are time sensitive; they have an immediate effect for the transplant team.

The role of the biomedical scientist is in the background, but is such an important role and it’s critical to our transplant team.

A patient’s treatment plan is based on our testing. We report our results to the clinicians and we monitor the patient’s results through the transplant process and beyond. For example, back in 2007 Addenbrooke’s carried out one of the operations for the first paired kidney swap in the UK which saved two lives. Two healthy partners exchanged kidneys so that their sick spouses could both have a life-saving transplant. We continue to monitor that patient on a regular basis.

Working in biomedical science means you can realistically change people's lives within your career, which is really exciting.

I’m passionate about helping others and as well as mentoring an apprentice in the year below me, I am also a trained mental health first aider. The two-day course equips you with the skills you need to recognise the signs of poor mental health, and act more confidently to support someone.

I was delighted to hear I am a finalist in this year’s Multicultural Apprenticeship Awards, having been nominated by Kate Greenwood, work opportunities project manager. I’m really looking forward to the gala dinner on 04 November, networking with all the other amazing finalists.

I’m reaching the end of my apprenticeship and am working on my final assessment and research project which I have to present in August/September next year.

I would definitely recommend the apprenticeship scheme here at CUH. I’ve had four years’ experience working in a laboratory and I’m part of an amazing team. I earn while I learn and I end up with a funded degree!

Apprenticeships at CUH are available to internal and external candidates; they provide access at different educational levels. For more information, please visit our Apprenticeships page.