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Celebrating our unsung heroes

Posted on Thursday 17th March 2016
healthcare science week

Celebrating our unsung heroes

The work of unsung heroes at North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust is being celebrated this week as part of Healthcare Science Week.

Healthcare science includes dozens of professions, from biomedical scientists and geneticists, to mortuary practitioners and audiologists. This week is a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness of the vital role science and technology plays in modern patient care.

Healthcare Science Week also aims to inspire the next generation of NHS healthcare scientists and promote the various entry routes and career opportunities.

The Pathology department is based across two hospital sites – the Cumberland Infirmary, Carlisle, and the West Cumberland Hospital, Whitehaven, and perform over three million tests per year. Pathology underpins every aspect of patient care, from diagnostic testing and treatment advice to the use of cutting-edge genetic technologies and the prevention of disease. 

Debra Padgett is Pathology Quality Manager at the Cumberland Infirmary.  She graduated from Sunderland University with a BSc in Physiology and after applying for the position of Medical Laboratory Assistant in the Microbiology department, gained lab experience and within six months moved into a trainee Biomedical Scientist position. Debra was supported by the Trust to complete her MSc in Medical Microbiology and moved up through the ranks from Specialist Biomedical Scientist to her current position of Pathology Quality Manager.

The Pathology department is heavily regulated and the role of the pathology quality manager is to monitor compliance of the pathology service with all regulatory, licensing and accrediting bodies.

Debra said: “Very few people are aware of the role Pathology performs – we are essentially the ‘engine room’ of the hospital, with 70 per cent of diagnoses based on pathology results provided by our laboratory services. The whole team is extremely passionate about the service we provide for patients.”

Lead Anatomical Pathology Technologist, Victoria Williams, graduated from University with a degree in fine art. Through drawing pictures in the mortuary at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, Victoria was appointed to the role as trainee at the Cumberland Infirmary. Here, she went on to achieve diplomas 3 and 4. If a doctor is unable to issue a death certificate or a death is thought of as unnatural, Victoria’s role is to assist the pathologist to find the cause of death – this includes working with the police and the coroner’s office. The team of four also have the difficult but rewarding job of supporting bereaved families during viewings and offering advice.

Victoria said: “I am so proud of what I do. I like to think that it is a comfort to the loved ones that we are still caring for the body after death. It can be hard at times and as a team we get on really well and support each other in order to do our jobs effectively.”

Caroline Evans, a Clinical Scientist in Immunology at the Cumberland Infirmary, always wanted to work for the NHS. After completing her undergraduate degree in Biomedical Sciences at Newcastle University, she first came to the Infirmary in 2009 for work experience in the Pathology labs, before working as a Medical Laboratory Assistant in Newcastle. From this, Caroline was offered a four year Clinical Scientist trainee position in Oxford, which included studying for a Masters in Medical Immunology. Once qualified as a state-registered Clinical Scientist, Caroline was pleased to be offered a job back in Cumbria – where she was born and raised. Caroline’s day to day duties consist of interpreting results, adding further tests where indicated, to provide informative reports for clinicians, as well as quality improvement and service development.

Caroline said: “I am very lucky to be part of such a great, hardworking team. Healthcare Scientists are often forgotten about, tucked away in the basement, but we provide an integral part of patient care and that’s what I love about this job.”

Melissa Blaylock, biomedical scientist in immunology and virology, graduated from Northumbria. Melissa was first appointed as a trainee in the blood sciences department for two years when she registered as a Biomedical Scientist. Melissa currently works in the immunology/virology laboratory processing patient samples diagnosing conditions including autoimmune diseases, viral infections and the determination of allergy status.

Melissa said: “My job varies on a daily basis depending on the samples received and the laboratory area I’m working in. Teamwork is essential in providing our service and I’m lucky to have a fantastic team supporting me as a new member of staff.”

Debra, Victoria, Caroline and Melissa are only a few of the Trust’s unsung heroes. There are many more, both at West Cumberland Hospital and the Cumberland Infirmary.