Using the lab skills gained during my PhD for a clinical career

NHS Scientist Training Programme
Dr Emily Halford
PGR Careers Case Study

Emily Halford

Introduce yourself by providing information about your research and current role

I have recently submitted my thesis (Immunology) and am on the NHS scientist training programme. This three year programme runs all over the country, and produces clinical scientists in a range of specialisms. I am based in the NHS Blood and Transplant department on Vincent Drive, and my specialism is histocompatibility (organ & stem cell transplantation).

How has your PhD prepared you and given you relevant transferable skills for your current role?

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International Bursary: Emergency Medicine Placement at Doctors Hospital Health System Limited (DHHS), The Bahamas

James-Bell1222x298James Bell (Medicine Clinical, 4th Year)

James Bell (winner of the ERAC award for his outstanding presentation and interview) – Emergency Medicine Placement at Doctors Hospital Health System Limited (DHHS), The Bahamas

James’s role

On the first day of his hospital placement in the Bahamas, James was given a white coat and full responsibility to choose the direction of his placement. He ran bloods to the lab, transferred acutely ill patients to the hospital imaging facilities, took medical histories of patients, performed physical examinations and liaised closely with consultants in order to get as much exposure as possible of emergency care.

Invaluable first-hand tips

‘One of my main aims was to learn how to provide emergency care to patients with gunshot injuries, which unfortunately is a big problem in the Bahamas. Headlines such as “six gunned down in two hours” plagued the newspapers every weekend, and I managed to learn some invaluable first-hand tips and techniques from Bahamian doctors of how to deal with such injuries.’


‘It’s always a thrill working abroad, and I think what I enjoyed most was the sheer variety of cases compared to what I have experienced in Birmingham A&E departments; I’ve never seen a patient with a penetrating injury to the foot from sea urchin spines, or an exotic case of suspected chikungunya fever! Finding out about how healthcare worked in the Bahamas was interesting as well, since I am always looking to expand my knowledge of other healthcare systems to see if any aspects of these foreign models could be applied to help improve the NHS.’

This is knowledge that I will be sure to carry forward with me into the NHS.

‘This placement allowed me to further hone all of the clinical skills that I have been learning in Birmingham over the past two years, e.g. taking patient histories, examining patients and presenting findings back to senior colleagues. I also got the opportunity to develop my practical skills further with blood-taking and IV cannula insertion.’

New culture

‘Most of all I learnt about a new culture and experienced the Caribbean way of life… it’s always good to know where people are coming from, what their background is and importantly what their health beliefs are.’

Better job prospects

‘As with any highly competitive field, generally the more you have on your CV the better your job prospects. Having additional extra-curricular work experience shows your commitment and provides you with insight into the career, as well as allowing you to really sell yourself at interview. By carrying out this work experience, I have found that I really enjoy acute care.’

International Bursary: Global Brigades Volunteer, Honduras

Daniel-Hiley1300x225Daniel Hiley (Medicine Pre-Clinical, 2nd Year)

Daniel Hiley – Global Brigades Volunteer, Honduras

Daniel’s role

During his placement, Daniel had a range of roles including working on the dentist and pharmacy stations, inputting patient data into online databases, helping at the triage station, taking patients’ blood pressure, height and weight measurements, shadowing local doctors, delivering information to children about health and hygiene and helping with manual labour and construction tasks for an eco stove and hygiene station.

I thoroughly enjoyed the close interaction with the local people and getting to know and understand their lifestyle.

Extremely Challenging


‘It was really great to get to know the community and by talking to the community health volunteers, I learnt a lot about how the community functioned despite its limited resources. The public health brigade was extremely challenging both physically and mentally, which is why I believe I enjoyed it so much.’


‘The main skill that I believed I developed whilst on the brigade was my communication skills. Whilst on the brigade I intentionally put myself in situations where my communication skills would be challenged. For instance during the triage section of the brigade I wanted to speak to patients on my own without the help of my colleague or translator. This meant I had to solely rely on my abilities without the help from anyone else. I felt like I developed in confidence and ability the more patients I saw. It was extremely rewarding when a consultation went extremely fluently and that the patient understood me without the need for extra clarification.’


‘I enjoyed getting stuck into the building projects and working with the local masons. I felt that I naturally became a leader during the construction project as I quickly learnt the technique of how to mix the cement. This was our biggest task throughout the three days and had to be carried out on many occasions. I believe I successfully led our team to complete this task in an efficient manner.’

Huge Success

‘I believe that the fact we managed to provide excellent medical care to two local Honduran communities seeing 1215 patients over 4 days is astonishing! I feel like the whole brigade was a huge success.’

Posted on Wednesday 4th February 2015