Education and training at the West Midlands Regional Genetics Laboratory

Here at the West Midlands Regional Genetics Laboratory (WMRGL) we are committed to the training and development of all new and existing staff.

We offer a range of competence-based training following nationally-recognised training programmes including the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP), Higher Specialist Scientist Training (HSST), Healthcare Science Apprenticeships and Technical development at Career Framework levels 2 to 4. 

Further information on careers in healthcare science can be found on the National School of Healthcare Science website and through NHS Careers.

To support our diverse and highly-skilled workforce of around 300 staff, we employ a dedicated Education and Training Team to support the day-to-day delivery of training, Continued Professional Development (CPD) as well as lead on the organisation and delivery of formal training programmes. Details of these programmes can be found through the relevant links below.

For any enquiries, please email Sarah Clinton, Education and Training Lead Sarah.Clinton9@nhs.net

 

Professional development

We support all staff in their professional development, whether on formal training programmes or through career development and progression. We do this through structured training, dedicated CPD, attendance at professional meetings and conferences as well as support for further academic study. This also includes supporting professional registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and Academy for Healthcare Science (AHCS) and higher examinations such as the Fellowship examination of the Royal College of Pathologists.

We are an accredited training centre for the Genomic specialisms of the NHS Scientist and Higher Specialist Scientist Training Programmes via the National School of Healthcare Science. To support this, the department has a team of experienced trainers and assessors who are dedicated to the development of our trainees; to ensure they exit the programme with the relevant knowledge, skills and behaviours of a Clinical Scientist.

The department is also committed to the training of our Technical workforce, which consists of a team Healthcare Science Assistants, Associates, Genetic Technologists and Senior Genetic Technologists. They are supported by the central Education and Training Team in terms of CPD, career development and the delivery of structured training plans and programmes.

Our CPD Programme

To support our staff, we offer a comprehensive CPD programme consisting of workshops, seminars, case presentations and journal clubs. The aim of this programme is keep up to date with development in genomics as well as offer new insights and ways of working.

Together with our Clinical Genetics Unit, we have an additional CPD series that invites external experts to the department. This may be on patient-facing topics such as experiences or charities, new research topics or collaborations, or Healthcare Scientists from other laboratories discussing new testing strategies.

If you are interested in presenting on our CPD Programme please contact Dr Eudmar Marcolino at eudmar.marcolino@nhs.net

Technical Careers

Technical Roles available at WMRGL

We offer a wide range of career opportunities within our Technical Programme. Key career entry points are detailed below with requirements for each post. All posts are advertised and processed through the NHS Jobs website unless stated otherwise.

Healthcare Science Assistant (Band 2)

In this role you will perform a limited number of laboratory tasks including; basic administration, sample processing, sample export and karyotyping.

Requirements: at least 5 GCSEs at grade C or above, to include English and Maths and a Science subject. No previous laboratory experience required

Healthcare Science Assistant (Band 3)

In this role you will perform a number of laboratory techniques including basic administration, sample processing, sample export Karyotyping, FISH, DNA/RNA extractions and PCR.

Requirements: at least 5 GCSEs at grade C or above, to include English and Maths and a Science subject. 2 A Levels in Science, including Biology or equivalent level qualifications. No previous laboratory experience required but posts are competitive

Healthcare Science Assistant (Band 4)

In this role you will perform a broader range of laboratory techniques including Karyotyping, FISH, DNA/RNA extractions, PCR and Sequencing as well as supervision of other laboratory staff.

Requirements: at least 5 GCSEs at grade C or above, to include English and Maths and a Science subject. 2 A Levels in Science, including Biology or equivalent level qualifications. Previous laboratory experience is essential and a BSc in a Biological Science is desirable.

Genetic Technologist (band 5)

In this role you will be performing with a high degree of skill and judgment working under minimal supervision. You will perform a wide range of diagnostic and analytical techniques and have an in-depth understanding of the science underpinning the technology you apply.

Requirements: Registered AHCS registered Genetic Technologist, 3 years laboratory experience working at level 5, BSc in Biological Science. There are also training opportunities for those with significant laboratory experience to work toward registration at band 5 level.

Internships

Overview

A number of internships are available throughout the year for those interested in a career within genomics. The department runs its Internship Programme twice a year and is advertised at Trust-wide recruitment events, local STEM networks and the departmental Twitter account (@WMRGL). This is a paid, six month, fixed-term position aimed at those who are keen to start their career in laboratory genetics.

Eligibility:

Applicants must be over 18 years of age and have Maths, English and Science GCSE (or equivalent) as well as a keen interest in Genetics or Healthcare Science. Candidates are selected for interview after submitting a CV and Cover Letter. Potential interns are then shortlisted and invited to interview for the post. For more information, please contact Dr Karen Cooke at karen.cooke14@nhs.net

This internship offers valuable lab experience such as processing of clinical samples, exposure to the working/laboratory environment, and access to seminars and further learning. At the end of the programme, individuals will be given the opportunity to shadow different members of staff to gain an insight into other areas of work within the department. Interns are supervised at all times by an experienced and competent member of staff. It is expected that all interns will go on to secure posts within the laboratory.

Intern profile

My Experience – Jessica Onions (Intern January 2021 – June 2021)

I am truly grateful for this experience. I am heading to university with an incredibly advantageous perspective and understanding of graduate work, progression within the workplace and academia relative to science related degrees and indispensable laboratory experience – all of which I most likely would not have known until the end of my degree. Hearing personal experiences of university life and what it’s like to work at WMRGL has been really beneficial, I have been given advice/tips from colleagues of things that they wish they’d have known in my position – which is just absolutely invaluable to me!

Coming directly from A levels, admittedly I was anxious about the learning curve and if others would treat me differently – however, this did not happen. Having all of my previous work experience being in retail, the nature of the work was obviously very different, but not as big of a change as I had worried about. Every colleague I have met has been nothing short of patient, friendly and really accommodating and I am never afraid to ask a question. I am extremely humbled as straight away I have felt so included within the Specimen Reception team. It has been awesome to experience work inside a laboratory - my only taste of lab work was the practical side of A level chemistry… so I was beyond excited to just even get a lab coat and see proper equipment (that actually works!).

Every day, I am constantly learning, and that is exactly what I wanted from my gap year work. It is fascinating learning about the different genetic conditions that are tested for at the lab, whether I am researching it myself as the samples come through, or a colleague is explaining the science behind it to me. I have built up an understanding of the different types of testing available and the pathways samples can take, all of which will help me within my degree as I can take my studies and my knowledge further.

Specimen Reception is a fantastic area to start in; my confidence has undoubtedly developed due to the nature of the role involving communicating with various members of staff from around the entire hospital, the visitors/porters that come into the laboratory and individuals on the telephone. It is exciting, there is always something to do and to learn. Although at this stage I have only worked in Specimen Reception for a month or so, I really feel that I am a better individual for it – my mind-set and perspective regarding science work and my own personal aspirations have advanced tremendously in a short space of time; it is a brilliant area where I believe everyone can take something positive from, and grow in more ways than one.

I am really looking forward to starting university this September and beginning my journey into a scientific career. With better knowledge and understanding of my career opportunities, progression within the workplace and a realistic idea of graduate work, I am truly excited for the future and I am aspiring to achieve the best role that I can.

Level 4 Healthcare Science Assistant Apprenticeship

Overview

An apprenticeship is a paid job which happens alongside a skills development course. Together, this enables you to gain both knowledge and practical experience as you are learning and working. Typically, this involves four full working days a week and one day (or 20% of your time) enhancing your professional knowledge with “off the job” training. We provide a Level 4 Apprenticeship in Healthcare Science. On completion of the apprenticeship, and successful passing of the apprenticeship End Point Assessment, individuals will be eligible to apply to join the Academy for Healthcare Science (AHCS) accredited Associate register at Level 4. Prospective candidates can apply on NHS Jobs and submit an application. Candidates are shortlisted and invited to interview. Successful candidates are appointed at substantive AfC Band 2 posts and are afforded typical NHS staff benefits.

Eligibility

To be eligible, applicants must have 2 A-levels (or equivalent Level 3 qualification), 5 GCSEs, including English and Maths grades 9 – 4 (A-C), and a good understanding of the importance of Health Safety and Quality in a hospital laboratory. Applicants are not ineligible for this programme if they already possess a degree (BSc, MSc, PhD, etc.) in a related field.

Roles and responsibilities

This is a laboratory-based role and Healthcare Science Associate apprentices (HCSA) are responsible for providing technical support to Genetic Technologists and Clinical Scientists by performing tasks independently and carefully, once trained to do so. The majority of the work is protocol (procedure) driven, and apprentices are trained to deal with some complex technical and scientific information.

Experience is gained by following specific protocols for the receipt and processing of patient samples for genetic analysis. Some tasks undertaken by Level 4 HCSA apprentices are:

  • Receipt, booking in and preparation of a wide range of patient sample types for analysis using a variety of manual and automated procedures e.g. DNA and RNA extraction, cell culture using aseptic techniques, harvesting cell cultures, including preparing samples for dispatch to other laboratories.
  • Basic quality control and sample identity checks.
  • Preparing samples for genetic analysis by setting up laboratory tests using manual methods as well as use of high throughput robots, genetic analysers, cell selection/capturing and karyotyping.
  • Maintaining stocks of solutions, reagents, chemicals and consumables for use in the laboratory.
  • Management of own workload in order to meet the laboratory’s turnaround times.
  • Develop an understanding of the technical basis of the tests, to be able to identify problems and take corrective action under the direction of a Senior Genetic Technologist or Clinical Scientist.
  • Learning about, and being responsible for, the care of laboratory equipment and will be trained and expected to maintain a high standard of laboratory health, safety and risk procedures; they are required to work to departmental Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and current professional standards.

Apprentice profile

Victoria My view: Victoria Qiu – Level 4 Apprentice (starting April 2021) 

Why did I apply?

At the end of 2019, I decided that I wanted to leave my senior management hospitality job in search of a career that felt to me more meaningful. I took a sabbatical from work and asked myself some hard questions. What type of job did I want? How would I get there? What did this mean for my future? I decided that I needed to have a career that I enjoyed as well as feeling like I made a difference in people's lives. It was during these moments of self-discovery where my adolescent interest in biology would become the catalyst to my future career. Growing up, my family worked in hospitals and this sparked my interest in laboratory work, specifically in genetics. When I saw the advertisement for the Healthcare Science Apprenticeship on the NHS website I knew it was an opportunity too good to let go.

What am I looking forward to?

I am excited to learn how to prepare patient samples and how to use different scientific procedures in the lab. I am eager and grateful to work alongside talented NHS staff and to be a part of something bigger.

What skills will you need when applying for an apprenticeship?

The beauty of an apprenticeship is that you do not need any experience in the field of your course. However, what the team are looking for is someone who has a genuine interest and passion for the job. You must be determined and be self-motivated enough to learn new skills. You must be able to listen to your colleagues and work effectively in a group as well as independently.  It is also critical that you are organised and that you can work under pressure whilst remaining professional.

What’s next?

After I qualify for my Level 4 in Healthcare Science I would like to be able to continue my studies and complete a Level 6. After qualifying, I would like to apply with the NHS to become a genetic technologist.

For more information, please contact Dr Karen Cooke at karen.cooke14@nhs.net

Please note: we currently have no vacancies at present.

Scientific Careers

We have a long-standing reputation for training Healthcare Scientists and have a wealth of experience and expertise of a range of programmes and career paths.

Pre-Registration Clinical Scientist

Overview

Each year, the department hosts a number of Pre-registration Clinical Scientist posts which are recruited to locally via the NHS Jobs website.  Successful individuals are asked to review their previous  academic (Masters level or above) and scientific experiences in order to determine their professional route to registration. This will be either the route two of the Association of Clinical Science (ACS) or the Equivalence route through the Academy for Health Care Science (AHCS).

Each trainee’s pathway to registration will be different; depending on their chosen route (ACS or AHCS), their previous experiences and the needs of the clinical service. It is envisaged that Pre-Registration Scientists will complete 2-3 years of on-the-job scientific training and experience within the Genetics Laboratory to obtain the necessary requirements for HCPC registration.

Support

Our Pre-Registration Scientists are supported by a dedicated team of professional scientific mentors and training leads across the department to enable rotations, monitor progress, and support personal development. In addition to the laboratory-wide CPD Programme they have dedicated CPD meetings to address any specific learning or development needs.

 

The Scientist Training Programme (STP)

Overview

The introduction of Modernising Scientific Careers (MSC) in 2009 brought with it standardised core and specialist curricula for thirty-two different Healthcare Science specialisms across the UK: unifying a number of different training, education, and professional registration routes for Healthcare Scientists (HCS). This also saw the introduction of a universal approach to academic study (MSc Clinical Science), national recruitment, and the introduction of a formative and summative assessment programme, all to allow greater accountability and quality management longitudinally across the programme.

Here at WMRGL, we host Genomics, Cancer Genomics, Clinical Bioinformatics (Genomics) and Genomic Counselling specialisms of the STP. Recruitment to the programme is co-ordinated nationally by the NSHCS and further details of the requirements and process of applying can be found on the NSHCS website. Additionally, further details on specialist curricula, structures, and assessment programmes can all be found here.

External training on the STP

The department also supports the delivery of Scientist training to other Life Science disciplines within the Midlands. This is in the form of a 6-12 week Genomics Rotation and is run alongside the internal year one timetable. Trainees are required, by Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Trust to have an honorary contract and local induction before starting in the laboratory. This is currently organised by the Laboratory’s Scientific Training Manager. For more information on year 1 rotations, please contact Dr Eudmar Marcolino eudmar.marcolino@nhs.net

As an overview, the diagram below depicts the general structure of the STP

STP

MSc Clinical Science

For Genomics, Cancer Genomics and Bioinformatics specialisms, the academic provider of the MSc in Clinical Science is the University of Manchester and its partners via the Manchester Academy for Healthcare Science Education (MAHSE). Trainees spend a large proportion of year one at the university completing the academic learning for first year rotations and the Introduction to Healthcare Science, Professional Practice and Clinical Leadership module. Further academic study is required in years two and three to complete learning on the specialist modules and together with year one, is assessed solely by the university.

Workplace based Learning and assessment

The workplace (WMRGL) follows nationally approved curricula that are available via the National School of Healthcare Science (NSHCS) Curriculum Library (online). The trainees document their learning and development on a web-based software tool provided by the NSHCS called OneFile. The trainee will submit evidence to support competence and undertake work based assessments (CBD, DOPS, MSF and OCEs) throughout the three years of the programme. The Laboratory works closely with the trainees, trainers and the NSHCS to make sure that all trainees progress at a steady pace throughout their training. As such, the department supports the formal monitoring of trainee progress at month 18 of the programme in the form of the Midterm Review of Progression (MRP).

Support

Trainees and trainers are supported by the laboratory’s Education and Training Team as well as Lead Clinical Scientists who have expertise in training and assessment. Working with our technical and scientific workforce, the STP workplace learning is mapped directly to module learning outcomes and an increased focus on high level knowledge and skills; all required to meet the end-point assessment of the programme (OSFA) and registration as a Clinical Scientist.

Higher Specialist Scientific Training (HSST)

Since 2014, the department has participated in the Higher Specialist Scientist Training (HSST) programme in Genetics and Clinical Bioinformatics. This is a nationally approved training programme developed in partnership between the NSHCS and the Royal College of Pathologists.

As with the STP, trainee progression is overseen by the NSHCS with support from the academic provider and the workplace. Individuals participating on this 5 year programme are Registered Clinical Scientists retaining a significant service delivery component whilst completing Fellowship of the Royal College of Pathologists. There is a work based assessment strategy and access to a taught doctorate provided by the Manchester Academy for Healthcare Science Education (MAHSE). Participants are required to record training progress on designated ePortfolio, OneFile. Details of this programme can be found on the National School of Healthcare Science website.

Education in the community

Our staff are actively involved in the education and communication of genomics as well as promoting careers in healthcare science. Our activities range from STEM events at local schools and NHS Trusts through to large-scale events such as the Big Bang Fair and the National Skills Show.

Education in the community

We are passionate about education, and inspiring others to use their love of science for the benefit of our patients. At our events we aim to give students and the public key information about Genomics and engage them with educational and fun activities. This might be pairing up sock chromosomes, attempting to sequence DNA or having a go at some of our laboratory techniques.

If you are interested in our STEM work you can either contact the laboratory directly or follow up on Twitter at @WMRGL where we communicate our events and experiences.  

Videos and media

Healthcare Science Week 2020

Healthcare Science Week 2020 (HCSW) is an annual week of celebration and awareness-raising for the many careers in healthcare science, and to inspire the scientific workforce of the future. Our hundreds of scientific, technical and clinical staff members play vital roles in delivering world-class care to thousands of our patients and families every year. Watch this video to hear what drives their passion for Genomics.

Patient pathway in Genomics in the NHS

A brief introduction about the patient pathway in Genomics in the NHS given by one of our Clinical Scientists – Dr Florentina Sava. Find out about how patient samples are processed for genomic testing, genomic counselling and delivering results to patients.

The Healthcare Science Podcast

All episodes in one player

Description

We have created a podcast to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about genomics and to give an insight into what we do on a daily basis.

The podcast is not just for scientists, it’s designed to be accessible for everyone and is an interesting and engaging listen for anyone interested in finding out a bit more about genomics in healthcare. Why not check it out when you are on your lunchtime walk or have it on when you are in the car on your way to work?

Topics include

  • Interpretation of genomic findings in patients with rare diseases
  • Personalised care for patients with somatic cancer
  • Sample pathway in genomics
  • How patients receive their genomic results
    Education and training in genomics in the NHS

You can also listen to it on

Spotify https://open.spotify.com/show/67Zfn9mutp9zqAolgxCJY0

Deezer: https://www.deezer.com/en/show/2403962

Google Podcasts: https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9mZWVkcy5idXp6c3Byb3V0LmNvbS8xNzE3OTMwLnJzcw?hl=en-GB

Podchaser: https://www.podchaser.com/podcasts/the-healthcare-science-podcast-1624761

Amazon Music: https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/bb90ea6e-092e-4705-a6b4-f5cf8f68b254/The-Healthcare-Science-Podcast

Podcast Addict: https://podcastaddict.com/podcast/3274011

PlayerFM: https://player.fm/series/the-healthcare-science-podcast