Clinical support worker
37.5 per week
£15,000 + per year
Clinical support workers working in health sciences help scientists and medical staff diagnose and treat patients. They work throughout the health service, on hospital wards, in clinics, in labs and in some GP surgeries.
To become a clinical support worker, you should have an interest in science. You need to have accuracy and attention to detail. You also need to be able to work under pressure.
You may not need any qualifications to start in this job. Some employers may prefer you to have GCSEs or another science-related qualification. It would be an advantage to have experience in the NHS, especially in a lab setting.
As a clinical support worker, also known as an assistant technical officer, your duties could include a range of lab skills such as:
- labelling, sorting and storing specimens
- assisting with the analysis of tissue and fluid samples
- putting together chemical solutions
- loading and operating machines
- using a computer to input and analyse data
- disposing of hazardous waste
- sterilising equipment
- maintaining stock levels.
Part of your work may also include responding to telephone enquiries as well as the keeping and filing of records.
You could work closely with scientists in a range of areas:
- biochemistry - studying chemical reactions in the body like kidney failure
- histopathology - examining the structure of diseased tissue
- virology - analysing viruses, the diseases they cause, and vaccines
- cytology - studying the structure and function of cells, and screening for cancers
- haematology - analysing diseases of the blood and blood forming tissues
- immunology - examining how the immune system works, for example with allergies
- transfusion science - transferring blood and blood products from one person to another.
You could combine your role with working in a closely related area of work such as phlebotomy.
Please see the phlebotomy job profile for more information.
You would typically work 37.5 hours a week, Monday to Friday, but with some employers you may need to cover evenings or weekends. Part-time hours are often available.
You would be based in clean and sometimes sterile lab conditions. However, your work could involve dealing with unpleasant or challenging sights and smells from infectious materials, body fluids and biological samples. At times you may need to wear protective clothing, gloves, glasses and a mask to prevent contamination.
As well as the lab, you may work in a clinic and with patients on wards or in a GP practice. You could also have clerical duties and spend some time in an office.
Clinical support workers can earn around £15,000 to £18,000 a year.
With experience this can rise up to around £20,000.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
You would normally need good general standard of education, such as GCSEs in English, maths and a science. An understanding of medical terminology and some experience of working in a healthcare or lab setting would be useful. Contact the voluntary services coordinator at your local NHS Trust for further advice about opportunities.
You could take a college course, for instance the Certificate/Diploma in Applied Science at levels 2 or 3, to help improve your chances of finding work. Check with your local college for more details.
Another way to get into this type of work is through an Apprenticeship. Schemes vary between NHS Trusts. They include clinical placements and study towards a relevant qualification, for example a Level 3 Diploma in Pathology Support. To find out more about Apprenticeships, visit the Apprenticeships website.
You could also contact your local NHS Trust for details of schemes in your area.
Training and development
You will normally receive on-the-job training covering issues such as safety procedures. You may also work towards a Certificate of Competence, which is awarded when you are assessed as performing your duties safely. Achieving the Certificate would be particularly useful if you want to progress and apply for senior clinical support worker posts.
Opportunities for further on-the-job training may include qualifications, such as:
- Level 2/3 Diploma in Laboratory Science
- Level 3 Diploma in Clinical Healthcare Support
- Level 3 Diploma in Pathology Support.
The Modernising Scientific Careers (MSC) programme within the NHS has led to more routes being opened up for healthcare science staff to train and progress in their careers. There are four levels of progression, depending on your role, with the levels closest to this job being healthcare science associate and healthcare science practitioner. Practitioner level can include training towards a relevant degree qualification.
See the NHS Careers site for more details about the MSC programme.
Skills, interests and qualities
To become a clinical support worker, you should have:
- an interest in science, particularly biology and chemistry
- accuracy and attention to detail
- the ability to concentrate for long periods
- good hand-eye coordination
- a methodical approach to work
- good teamworking skills
- good organisational skills
- the ability to work under pressure
- good time keeping, with the ability to meet deadlines
- the ability to follow strict health and safety guidelines.
Institute of Biomedical Science
Tel: 020 7713 0214
Tel: 0345 60 60 655
Health Learning and Skills Advice Line
Tel: 08000 150 850
You will find most jobs within the NHS or private hospitals. You may also work in the blood transfusion service, public health service labs or research labs. Vacancies are advertised in the local press and on the NHS Jobs website.
With support from your employer, you could work towards becoming a biomedical scientist by studying part-time for a biomedical science degree. The Institute of Biomedical Science has more details.
Experience as a clinical support worker could lead to a career as a cardiological technician or cardiographer, a cervical cytology screener or phlebotomist.
Job market information
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