Growing your own


17 / 9 / 2015 8.22am

Sandra Phinbow is one of the Science Council's top 100 scientists and the engagement lead for Lab Tests Online UK. In her latest blog, she discusses the importance of supporting healthcare scientists at the start of their careers.

I've been a science communicator and public speaker since 2008 when I started an MSc in Science, Communication and Society and it's something I get a lot out of.  I also receive a lot of messages for individual help too. I'm often snowed under but somehow, I always find the time to answer these emails.

A couple of years ago a fresh graduate approached me. She'd been applying for lab roles all over and just not getting interviews. Fed up just did not cover it. She knew it was because she didn't have Health Care and Professions Council (HCPC) registration. HCPC registration is compulsory in the UK in order to use the legally protected title of biomedical scientist. Many graduates are gaining this via their degrees, and those who select a course which isn’t accredited by the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS) are at a disadvantage before they even graduate.

She explained she had been reaching out to lots of people for help and everyone said they were too busy, didn't have time, or they just ignored her. She came across a friend of mine, Charlie, a senior biomedical scientist in Scotland, who suggested she get in touch with me.

Over a series of months we worked together to support her to apply for positions. When an interview came up, we worked together on coaching her to get her ready for it. We covered what to wear, how to sit, what to do and what not to do, and practiced the kind of questions she might be asked. She knew it would be a tough interview, she didn't have HCPC registration and it wasn't a trainee post she was being interviewed for. There would be biomedical scientists in the interview pool.

She went in there armed with knowledge, confidence and strength, knowing that whatever happened she had someone on her side who would pick her up and help her on to the next interview with even more knowledge, confidence and pride.

Well, she smashed it. She was offered the post straight away over HCPC registrants. Here we are two years later and she has finished her generic training portfolio in cellular pathology and is now awaiting an Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS) assessor. She will be able to register with the HCPC and use that title we biomedical scientists hold so dear.

So people, when someone comes to you for help, don't ignore them, just take the time to speak with them, or pass them to a friend. If someone helped you to get a foot on the ladder at some point, it’s time to pay it back. The individual in question was my first mentee, but she hasn't been my last. I have a few babies growing up. I'm a proud science momma, and it feels amazing when your first born is all grown up.

Sandra Phinbow is chairing the support worker training programme and military presentations at the IBMS congress this year in Birmingham on the 28-30 September, and is happy to be approached for questions. She can also be contacted at

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