The IBMS Registration Portfolio: from a placement student’s perspective
Who am I ?
Hi, I’m Soumaya, a fourth-year Applied Biomedical Science student and the person behind @_.thebiomedical_scientist on Instagram. You may be thinking, “fourth year? Isn’t a biomedical science degree normally 3 years?”. Yes, you’re right, however, I undertook a placement sandwich year between my second and final year at a hospital blood sciences laboratory where I was a student trainee biomedical scientist and completed the IBMS registration portfolio.
What is a biomedical scientist?
A biomedical scientist (BMS) is a healthcare professional who works in a hospital laboratory with samples derived from the human body and investigates their properties and state to help clinicians assess and diagnose patients with certain medical conditions. Biomedical Scientist is a legally protected title meaning that you require the necessary education, skills, knowledge, and documents to be deemed as fit to register and practice as a BMS. The requirements are:
- 1st class or 2:1 in a BSc (Hons) Biomedical Science degree that is accredited by the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS), the accrediting body which represents biomedical science as a profession.
- Completion of a research project à either at university or in a hospital laboratory.
- Completion of the IBMS registration portfolio (will be discussed later).
- Achieve a pass in your verification à you will receive a Certificate of Competence from the IBMS.
You are then able to register as a biomedical scientist with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), an organisation which regulates and legally protects 15 different healthcare professions.
What is the IBMS registration portfolio?
The portfolio is essentially a large document consisting of evidence proving that you are knowledgeable and competent to be a BMS, that you must compile while training. Upon completion of your training, you are assessed by the IBMS for your fitness to practice. The point of the portfolio is to show that you can work in a professional, safe, and ethical manner to deliver a high-quality standard to service users, being patients, medical practitioners, other hospitals/labs, and external companies.
What does the portfolio consist of?
The portfolio is split into 2 sections, Professional Conduct and Professional Practice and 10 modules (5 modules in each section). These are:
- Personal Responsibility and Development
- Equality and Diversity
- Patient Records and Data Handling
- Professional Relationships
- Professional Knowledge
- Health and Safety
- Performing Standard Investigations
- Research and Development
For each module you must provide 3 separate pieces of evidence (30 in total) that cover the Standards of Proficiency (SOP’s) related to that module. SOP’s are objectives set by the HCPC and IBMS that explain what is needed from you as a BMS to practice safely and effectively within the scope of the profession. You can view all the SOP’s here.
What does an evidence look like?
Evidence is gathered throughout your training and can include things such as:
- Test request forms
- Questions and answers
- Result reports
- Handover sheets
- Meeting minutes
- Mind maps
- Certificates for online courses
- Witness statements
- Annotated pictures/diagrams
- Reflective statements
- Training logs
- University essays and lab reports
You can hand write or type them up or a mix of both, but you must ensure they are annotated and include as much of your knowledge as possible and most importantly you are linking to the SOP’s of that module!! All evidence must be detailed, clear, un-rushed and relevant! Its ok if some pieces are many pages long with lots of pictures and annotations and others may be a page long with a few paragraphs, if you are hitting the required points, you evidence will be good. Don’t forget, you will have help from your training officer, someone who works at the hospital lab you are placed at and oversees and helps those completing their training portfolio.
Let’s look at a few examples of evidence (from my own portfolio) to give you an idea of the format and what is expected:
- One of my pieces of evidence for the Equality and Diversity module. I used an example of a high-risk sample I came across when debagging samples and a certificate from completing a mandatory training course in equality and diversity. They can be regarded as 2 separate pieces, but I joined them together to boost the overall evidence and show how I applied my knowledge (from the course) to my practice (processing the high-risk sample). I annotated the pieces explaining what they are, what they mean, how does it apply to me and the laboratory I work in and why is it important. With the samples, I described how we process high risk samples, why it is important for both staff and patient health and safety, and how it relates to equality and diversity.
2. This evidence was for the Professional Knowledge module in section 2. I answered some questions provided by my training officer (I show only one page here for you) where you can see I had annotated on top it and answered further questions from my training officer at the bottom. I boosted the evidence by providing an example of the haematology reference ranges we use and a full blood count and cytogram directly from the analyser. I overall talked about what the results mean, what is the diagnosis and what each test tests for; these are all things I had learnt throughout my training from colleagues and further reading
3. In this evidence, for the Quality module, I wrote a short essay on audits, what they are, why they are important and the types of audits. To boost this evidence, I included a report from an examination audit I had participated in and annotated it (unfortunately I cannot add it in for confidentiality reasons).
To view more examples of evidence you can check out the “ibms portfolio” highlight on my page. As a reminder, please do not copy my work or the work of others you may come across. My portfolio is completely based off how my lab works which is different to any other lab; it will be obvious to your training officer when you plagiarise, and you can be at risk at being struck off from doing your portfolio or the HCPC register.
How do you find an opportunity to complete the portfolio?
Completing your portfolio is done whilst training at an IBMS accredited hospital laboratory, usually for around 1 year. There are a few ways to get into a training position:
- Applying for a sandwich/placement year via your accredited university. Between 2nd and 3rd year, usually a non-paid, full-time position. Please contact your careers service or placement supervisors for your course to find out if this is something they offer.
- Medical Laboratory Assistant (MLA) job position after you graduate. Most MLA positions do not provide training for the portfolio so you must look out for vacancies where the employers clearly state they are open to this. You can also ask during your interview for an MLA role whether they potentially could be open to you completing your portfolio in the future.
- Associate Practitioner (AP) job position after you graduate. APs are between MLA’s and BMS’s they work closely with the analysers but do not validate results and report and is the most similar role to a trainee BMS. However, like MLA’s, finding a vacancy where the employers are advertising completion of the portfolio whilst working as an AP, is very rare.
- Trainee BMS (paid) job position (outside of a university placement). Similar to MLA and AP roles, trainee BMS jobs are extremely rare and if you do come across one you most likely will need to relocate to a different town or city.
If your degree is/was not accredited by the IBMS, you would need to contact the IBMS who will assess your degree and determine what top-up modules you will need to do before you can qualify for training. This should be done before you look for laboratory jobs that allow you to complete your portfolio.
Do I need to complete the portfolio to apply for the STP?
No. The NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP) is a separate qualification to become a Clinical Scientist, similar but different to Biomedical Scientists, and you complete a different type of portfolio for that. Although the IBMS portfolio isn’t a requirement for applying for the STP it is a nice booster for your application and point of conversation during your interview as it will show your dedication, skills, knowledge, and experience in the field.
How long did you dedicate a week to the portfolio?
As I was a student, I was owed half of a day each week where I could go to the hospital library and work on my portfolio. So around 4 or 5 hours each week. However, on some weeks I had little to no work to do and others were busy, especially if I had deadlines set by my trainers or training officer; and would have to work on my portfolio after the workday or on the weekend or on my annual leave at home.
What is the Verification & Registration process?
Once you are done training, your training officer or university will arrange for a verification in which an external verifier (from the IBMS) inspects your portfolio and asks you questions relating to your training. You will also need to give them a detailed tour of your laboratory where questions will be expected. A pass would indicate final completion of your IBMS registration portfolio, and you will be sent a Certificate of Competence by the IBMS which you will use for the registration process with the HCPC.
Some questions you may be asked by the verifier can be about:
- Health and safety
- Quality à internal quality control and external quality assurance (EQA)
- How you deal with queries from service users
- How do you prioritise and manage workload as a team
- Brief explanations on how analysers work
- Briefly discuss what certain results mean
- Equipment and tools
- What certain tubes, bottles or containers are used for
Hopefully you are successful throughout this process and can now legally work as a BMS. However, you must maintain your registration via the Continual Professional Development (CPD) portfolio and renewing your registration every 2 years.
Here are some beneficial links:
- IBMS website with all necessary information about the registration portfolio: https://www.ibms.org/education/registration-portfolio/
- Reference copy of the portfolio: https://www.ibms.org/resources/documents/ibms-registration-training-portfolio-version-422-reference-copy/4registration-training-portfolio-v4.2-reference-10.2019.pdf
Information about CPD: https://www.ibms.org/cpd/
Check out my Instagram to follow my journey as student pursuing a career in biomedical science and diagnostics and for more advice and tips. If you have any further questions, you are more than welcome to contact me J .
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