On the 20th of May, a big change in the law regarding organ donation in England was implemented. You might not be aware of this change as the majority of the media coverage at the moment is either about the COVID-19 pandemic, protests or politics. As of the 20th of May 2020, all adults within the UK are presumed to be organ donors unless they have opted out under ‘Max and Kiera’s Law’. This ‘opt-out’ system was firstly introduced successfully by Wales in 2015 and they have seen an 18% increase in deceased organ donation.
First things first, if you are going to take on the wonderful world of clinical microbiology as an STP, you need to be okay with things that smell. Sometimes they smell nice, certain species of Streptococcus smell like caramel; sometimes not so nice, I dread opening the fridge at work where we store all our C. difficile culture plates. If you can get past the smell, you’ve jumped the first hurdle of microbiology! Well done!
So other than invest in a lot of clothes pegs and Vicks vapour rub, what do I do as a Clinical Microbiology trainee?
When people ask me what I do, I always need to take a little time to think. Partly because STP is a mix of so many varied experiences that every week is different to the previous one, and partly because my own understanding of my specialism keeps evolving as I move through these experiences. When I first applied for this course, I thought I had a reasonable understanding of what cancer genomics was. But now I see how naive I was and that three years is not anywhere near enough time to fully comprehend this very diverse and quickly developing area of science. So summarising it all in a few paragraphs will be a challenge but… let’s give it a go!
Haematology – something to do with blood.
When I tell people that I am training to become a clinical scientist in haematology and transfusion science, the reply I often get is; ‘Haematology – that’s something to do with blood, right?’
Well, to put it simply; haematology is the medical speciality responsible for the diagnosis and management of a wide range of benign and malignant disorders of the blood and bone marrow (the spongy interior of bone where blood cells are made). So yes, you could say that haematology is something to do with blood…
What is Health Informatics?
Health Informatics falls within the remit of clinical bioinformatics. This specialism, however, can sometimes seem difficult to differentiate from physical science and bioinformatics. The reality is there is a lot of overlap between these programs. Where Physical Science focuses on the effective acquisition of healthcare data, and Bioinformatics focuses on the use of genomic data to inform on the best treatment options, Health Informatics considers how to capture, communicate and use data to support health care professionals.
Critical Care Science in the Wider Context
Critical Care Science (CCS) is one of the smaller STP specialisms but deals with one of the most complex patient populations. Critical care patients range from elective cardiac surgery patients to major trauma and acute/chronic medical conditions. Critical care refers to specialised care for patients with life-threatening conditions; typically compromising of one or more organs that are failing. This level of care may be delivered in A+E, Intensive Care, High Dependency or specialist wards, e.g. long term ventilation. While a lot of the STP specialisms focus on a particular organ system or on a particular grouping of investigative techniques, the skills of CCS cover a holistic approach to clinical care, incorporating all areas of medicine and technology.
When I began writing this blog post I was thinking back to July 2018, I had accepted my place on the STP in Genomics at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. Then I received an email from my training officer asking me what rotations I would like to choose for my first year. My first thought was ‘Wow this is really real, I’m actually going to be on the STP?!’, before panicking about how I was supposed to decide on the departments I would like to spend my rotations in this early on!
The Cancer Genomics pathway represents the evolution of what the STP forbearers might have referred to as Molecular Pathology, and I love it.
You had me at ‘genomics’, tell me more!
What is Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics (H&I)?
That’s a question I’m only just getting to grips with, having started my training last September. On the most basic level, it’s easiest to say that it’s matching people for transplants, and although that is the majority of the work that scientists in this specialism do, they also use their skills to support clinicians in other areas of patient care. The STP is one of the main training routes for clinical scientists in this field, so if you’re considering H&I, then the STP is one of the best ways to get into it.
Audiology is a rapidly developing field and approximately 16% of the UK population has hearing loss, which indicates the importance of Audiology within the NHS. As an Audiology STP trainee, I work in the hospital Ear, Nose and Throat/ Audiology Department in Outpatients as well as occasionally in community settings and I have recently started my second year in the programme.Continue reading “Specialisms | Audiology”