Keegan 'the needle' Brown on working as an MLA

Keegan 'the needle' Brown on working as an MLA
4 May 2020
We caught up with professional darts player and IBMS Associate Keegan 'The Needle' Brown to talk about his work as a medical laboratory assistant during the pandemic

You’re a professional darts player, why did the pandemic inspire you to take on extra hours as a medical laboratory assistant?

With most sports activities around the world slowly being cancelled, it was only a matter of time before darts was. My plan maybe four weeks prior to the cancellation of the darts tour was to come back and do as many hours as needed to help my colleagues out. I could not just sit at home knowing my colleagues were working so hard to deal with routine specimens, as well as COVID-19 ones.

Each member of our staff group has undertaken further training in the department, so we are able to back fill if colleagues do have to self-isolate. It is to make sure we can continue the service. Within the last 5 weeks, as support workers, we are now on a 24/7 rota to help to support the biomedical scientists out of hours with the additional samples. As a group of support workers that have never worked a night in the lab, we have just got on with the challenge of them! 

What are your main responsibilities as a medical laboratory assistant?

My main responsibilities are slightly different to what a normal medical laboratory assistant would do. I work alongside Michelle Moore, senior biomedical scientist in Blood Sciences, in our quality section to help maintain the department UKAS accreditation. My fortes are audits and MOU (Measurement Of Uncertainty)! I find that audits are the best way for departments to improve, as these highlight where problems are and where potential ones could arise. Maths was my strongest school subject (due to the many hours of playing darts!), it’s certainly helped me out calculating specific numerical values for MOU in the departments (Biochemistry & Haematology) .

Besides my quality role, I am always available if my colleagues need help in Specimen Reception. Duties there are sorting, numbering, requesting & centrifuging specimens. We also perform manual tests in the department (Ketones, Osmolality, Blood Films, IM, Sickle Cells, Manual ESR etc) under the supervision of the biomedical scientists. We can also help the biomedical scientists with maintenance of the analysers in Biochemistry, Haematology & Blood Transfusion.

What do you think makes a good medical laboratory assistant?

Multitasking! It’s the ability to be able to run to Blood Transfusion with a patient sample that requires an emergency transfusion, at the same time you're centrifuging time critical assays (like ammonia) then receiving a CSF sample for Xanthochromia! It doesn’t matter how busy you are, it’s critically important to remain calm and focus on one job at the time. If we do not get procedures right when receipting and requesting specimens it affects the patient. So always remember that there is always a patient at the other end of any test tube!

Has being a medical laboratory assistant ever helped you with your darts in any way?

In the past it has helped me stay calm and focused at critical times of playing darts. Currently, with the pressure that we are all we are facing with COVID-19, I don’t think darts will ever come near it. I think if I ever get stressed out about missing a bullseye or 180 in the future, I will always remember the pressure that we are all facing in these difficult times during this pandemic. That will certainly make me realise what is worth worrying about in life!

Is there a medical laboratory assistant equivalent to hitting the bull or scoring 180?

My opinion is passing a UKAS Inspection! Anyone that’s ever worked towards gaining or maintaining UKAS accreditation, will understand how hard the process is and I think that’s a fair comparison I can make towards hitting bullseye or 180 consistently.

Is there any message you would like to share with other medical laboratory assistants across the UK?

I think regardless of what discipline medical laboratory assistants work in up and down the country, I think we are all doing a fantastic job in these challenging situations. Guidelines and procedures are sometimes changing, I think the way that we are all able to adapt so swiftly and able to produce the high quality of work is an outstanding achievement for all of us. We deserve a well earnt pat on the back!

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