Haematologists are specialist doctors who treat patients with blood and bone marrow conditions. Their work combines patient facing and research based practice to provide the right diagnoses and the best care for their patients.
What is a haematologist?
As a haematologist, your work focuses on diagnosing, analysing and treating blood related conditions. You will work with patients across all areas of care, from outpatient clinics to laboratory analysis, diagnostic appointments and continual treatment. It’s a popular specialism for doctors who want to work in both research and clinical care, and it’s an ever growing field of medicine.
Your responsibilities as a haematologist doctor will vary depending on your experience and any specialisms.
Common duties include:
- Taking detailed histories of patients in initial clinic visits to the haematology department, making assessments for potential risk factors of disease.
- Collecting blood and tissue samples to assess for various blood and bone marrow disorders.
- Analysing patient samples in a laboratory to support or a reject a potential diagnosis.
- Sharing diagnoses with patients and their families, maintaining excellent bedside manner throughout.
- Creating treatment plans for patients with a confirmed diagnosis.
- Overseeing outpatient haematology clinics and inpatient haematology wards, providing ongoing treatment and assessment of patients with ongoing blood related conditions.
- Working in a wide team of health professionals such as other doctors, haematology nurses and healthcare practitioners, giving directions to ward staff and sharing information on patient treatments.
- Planning chemotherapy treatments and protocols and managing chemotherapy delivery for a wide range of patients.
- Performing stem cell transplants and overseeing procedure aftercare.
- Taking bone marrow samples.
- Assessing bone marrow samples for potential diseases.
- Performing lumbar punctures.
- Overseeing junior doctors during their foundation years and specialist training, giving advice and guidance on the speciality.
- Keeping up to date with updates and research changes in the profession.
- Conducting your own research and submitting for academic publication.
- Working on wider research boards and projects within the hospital setting.
A haematologist salary in the NHS is dictated by the NHS Agenda for Change salary scale.
On completion of your medical degree, you will begin your foundation training. This lasts two years, during which you’ll be a junior doctor. During this phase of your training, you will be on a salary of £29,384-£34,012.
Once you have completed your foundation training, it’s time to apply for a medical specialism in haematology. Salaries for doctors during their specialist training begin at £40,257. During specialist training towards becoming a haematology consultant, your salary can increase to £84,559-£114,003.
Training to become a haematologist begins with a medical degree. This usually lasts five years, and is studied within a medical school attached to a university. Applicants need a minimum of 3 A Levels at grades A* and A, including chemistry. Some universities also require A levels in biology, maths and physics. You will also need to pass an interview and an exam. If you are already a graduate with a degree in a science based subject, you could alternatively apply to graduate entry medicine, a condensed four year course. A level entry requirements are the same for both routes.
Training and development
Medicine graduates begin their career as a doctor in foundation training. This is a two year program, during which you will be referred to as a junior doctor. The program covers six placements across different areas of medicine, from hospitals to GP surgeries. It’s a good idea to request a placement in clinical haematology if this is an option. On completion of your foundation training, you will be a fully qualified doctor. To practice medicine, you will need to register with the General Medical Council (GMC).
Once you complete your training, it’s time to apply for a medical specialism in haematology. This part of your train will last five years minimum. It’s possible to complete this over a longer period of time to fit around family life, or due to health or personal needs.
To retain your status as a doctor with the GMC, you will need to undertake continuing professional development (CPD). For doctors, this looks like 250 hours of CPD carried out over a 5 year period, averaging out at around 50 hours per year. Examples of relevant CPD include shadowing senior professionals, taking on further specialist training, attending seminars and conferences, and conducting and publishing your own original research.
Haematology specialists are also encouraged to join the British Society for Haematology. Being a member gives you access to conferences, seminars, and up to date research to help you advance your career.
Your skills as a haematologist combine research abilities, diagnostic skills and excellent patient care.
- An excellent understanding of disorders affecting the blood and bone marrow.
- Excellent laboratory skills for the assessment and diagnosis of disorders through close observations of blood and bone marrow.
- Excellent problem solving skills to support diagnoses.
- Excellent verbal communication skills, for explaining complicated diagnoses to patients in an accessible way.
- Excellent bedside manner to support patients in distress.
- Excellent written communication skills, for the accurate recording of notes and treatment plans.
- Organisational skills - you will oversee inpatient and outpatient clinics with various different patients with, so you’ll need to be organised to stay on top of your duties.
- Excellent time management to support the smooth running of clinics and appointments.
- Team working skills - you’ll be part of a wider haematology team, so it’s key that you can work collaboratively with others to create an excellent patient experience.
- Management skills - you’ll oversee the work of nurses, junior doctors and healthcare practitioners, so you’ll need to be able to manage others well.
- Emotional resilience - it is your role to pass on diagnostic and treatment information to patients, and this can be upsetting.
- Ability to work well under pressure - you’ll likely work across multiple different clinics under tight time constraints, so you’ll need to cope well with this.
- Excellent research skills, especially if you are conducting your own academic medical research.
- Ability to make quick but clinically informed decisions for the welfare of patients, with confidence.
Applying for medical training is competitive. You will usually need evidence of time in a healthcare based setting in order to apply for your initial medical degree to show your understanding of the profession and your commitment to study. This could be in a hospital, a GP surgery or another external healthcare provider, and could be paid work or voluntary shadowing. If you have a connection in healthcare, it is in your interest to use it - though you can also reach out directly to NHS providers in your area to ask to shadow a relevant professional.
If you struggle to access direct time shadowing a medical professional, you could also work in external settings that offer patient treatment in some capacity, such as care homes.
To express a particular interest in haematology early on in your medical career, you could join a haematology university society. Many universities have specialist haematology societies for medical students, offering training, seminars and networking opportunities to build up your knowledge and experience of this exciting area of medicine. This will also help you stand out when it comes to applying for specialisms after your foundation years.
Haematology is a fascinating and ever growing field of medicine. The combination of research and clinical practice means your career could take a variety of different avenues as you develop.
Haematology consultants have the opportunity to take on further sub-specialisms. Examples include being a paediatric haematologist, treating blood and bone marrow related cancers (oncology haematology), blood production disorders and transfusion medicine.
If you particularly enjoy the research side of your work, you could move into medical teaching. You could teach on an initial medical degree course at a university alongside your clinical work, teach on haematological science degrees, or specialise in training trainee consultants and junior doctors. You could also move from the NHS into private haematology, working in private hospitals or research facilities in clinical scientist jobs.
- Clinical genetics — HealthCareers.NHS.uk Retrieved 5 October 2022.