My journey as a Healthcare Science Student began when I left my job as a Dog and Cat groomer to follow my childhood ambition to become a Scientist. Worlds apart right? I was extremely nervous about starting a heavily practical based degree with huge chunks of placement, but it turned out to be the best decision of my life.
I left school at 14, after being badly bullied, with no GCSE’s and with rock bottom self-confidence. I ended up working in a pet store then eventually became a Dog and Cat Groomer. But after having my daughter I had the urge to get back into education.
I wanted to make a future for us and prove that, despite losing out on my education and having a massive confidence knock from the bullying, that I was actually worth something. Here I am, 3 years later, half way through my second year and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I genuinely couldn’t have picked a better degree or university.
I had never set foot into a laboratory and doubted my choice of degree many times before I began my first term, simply because it involved a hospital placement. But there were ample practical sessions throughout the degree, so I found my confidence grew little by little, week after week and these sessions are now my favourite part of studying.
It was great that we were taught the basic tasks of streak plating, using a pipette correctly and operating a spectrophotometer, which are now second nature. Two years on, we are performing antibiotic susceptibility testing, ABO blood typing, blood film analysis and PCR/Gel electrophoresis to name but a few! The support given to us from the lecturers and lab technicians in practical sessions is phenomenal, without it I don’t know where I would be.
On my hospital placement I was surprised how much the first-year practical sessions and lectures helped. I could now apply theory to a clinical setting and was able to get hands on experience in the Labs, such as brushing up on my gram staining and microscopy skills. I had the opportunity to work with patient samples and learn how to process patient blood cultures in the laboratory. I was surprised how much of this I could already do, such as the gram staining, spreading agar plates and antibiotic susceptibility testing. It was fascinating! All of these tasks were made much simpler by the previous lab sessions at uni. The trainers at placement are always by your side, so you can’t really mess up – something I had always been scared of! They were an absolutely hilarious bunch to work with too, and I can’t wait to go back this summer.
Placement has contributed massively to my confidence levels, and my gosh it is invaluable for second year studies. I got a taster for each discipline and have decided on pursuing a route in Medical Microbiology. I am so glad to have chosen wisely with my degree – it really does enable me to be a well-rounded individual, giving me the perfect balance between studying and on-the-job learning. I am completing my degree in the discipline of Infection Science but even then I am not bound to only work in this area of Pathology; there are a variety of job opportunities open to me once qualified, even outside of the Biomedical Scientist role. My background has always been animal based and I can even use this degree to work in veterinary labs – what more could I ask for?
This degree has ticked every box for me. I’ve made lifelong friends at Cardiff Met, and last September I had the opportunity to attend the brilliant Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS) congress event which opened up endless doors for me. Also, I’ve honestly had the best set of lecturers I could have asked for. The modules are diverse and interesting, the university is a down to earth and it’s a fun place to study.
Most importantly, after all the hard work, I’ll come out as a Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) registered Biomedical Scientist (BMS) ready to hit the ground running in any medical laboratory in the UK. The competition for BMS jobs after graduation is high, and I always hear about the volume of undergraduates, without HCPC registration, practically begging for a chance to be taken on in a Pathology Lab. This degree turns the tables – it’s more likely that the employers will be the ones begging you to join their team of Biomedical Scientists!
Looking for more about work placements at uni? Read more posts about Cardiff Met students learning on the job.