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Cytotechnologists are college trained laboratory scientists that prepare and examine human cells for the presence of disease. They rely on their detailed knowledge of normal cell anatomy. They compare normal and abnormal cell anatomy and then evaluate the significance of the differences. They will identify diseases such as cancer, tuberculosis, and HIV. They identify disease in various stages and can be instrumental in identifying patients in early stages of cancer.
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Cytotechnologists are responsible for the microscopic examination of cells. They work with other laboratory members evaluating human cell samples. Once variances are identified they are responsible for determining the level of significance for these abnormalities. They are an integral part of diagnosing diseases and abnormalities that affect human lives.
The technologist receives human samples and prepares them for examination using standardized, scientific processes. Preparing slides accurately is extremely important in order to obtain accurate results. The slides are then examined using a variety of microscopic equipment. Once abnormal cells are identified the technologist uses their knowledge of cell anatomy and disease to determine the significance of the abnormalities. They are responsible for writing a detailed report of their findings. Once the report is completed it is forwarded to a pathologist. The pathologist is a physician; he or she confirms and signs off on the technologist’s report, and it is sent to the patient’s physician.
Prospective cytotechnologists must have shown a positive aptitude for the sciences in high school. High SAT scores in science, English, and math will be beneficial when applying for entrance to colleges. A positive history of honors classes will also be beneficial.
Cytotechnologists must be able to focus on a small sample for long periods of time. Attention to detail is essential. They work with remarkably little supervision and must be able to organize and monitor their workday. They need exceptional vision, whether natural or corrected, in order to pick out minor differences in cells. They must also be comfortable working with complex machinery and interacting with other laboratory team members. The ability to follow written directions is another key personality trait.
The entry-level requirement for this field is a bachelor’s degree in cell biology. This program prepares graduates to work in the laboratory, to use various equipment, and to understand scientific processes and cell anatomy. Upon graduation, the student is prepared to begin working in the field. Additional training will be received on the job.
Cytotechnologists can also earn a master's and doctorate degree. 2010 studies in North America identified that 50% of technologist hold a bachelor’s degree and 45% have a masters. The remaining 5% hold doctorate degrees.
There are numerous colleges around the globe that offer bachelor, master and doctorate degrees in cell biology. This is the degree cytotechnologists must have. Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland has a world-renowned biology department. They offer both BS and MS degrees in molecular and cell biology. Students do their clinical rotations at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Duke University in North Carolina is another college that has students from around the globe seeking their education in cellular biology there. They offer BS, MS, and Doctorate programs. Their biology department has a variety of degree focuses including Cellular and Molecular Biology. Students emerge ready to take on the responsibilities of a cytotechnologist.
The University of Queensland offers a BS in Molecular Cell Biology and has a strong international reputation. The course curriculum is comparable to those in other nations. The University of York and the Kingston University in the U.K. also have reputable programs that have established themselves as leading universities in the biological sciences.
Cytotechnologists work in laboratories. A laboratory may be in a hospital, independent lab, or research facility. The labs can be noisy at times. They contain a variety of dangerous chemicals and sophisticated machinery. Cell samples can carry communicable diseases. The technologists must follow established policies and procedures to ensure they stay safe. Space is usually limited and must stay clean and organized.
People in this profession will spend hours sitting on a lab stool looking into a microscope. They carefully compare each part of the cell with normal cells, looking for even the slightest difference. Throughout their workday, they will move about the lab and use various personal safety devices such as gloves, gowns, lab coats, face shields, and other personal protective equipment.
Tissues in the human body are made up of individual cells, which represent some of its smallest building blocks. Changes in the behavior of cells are one of the earliest indicators of a disease or medical condition, often long before the patient experiences any symptoms.
A Cytotechnologist salary is one of the highest among other medical tech salaries.
Cells, cells, cells — that's the work of the cytotechnologist. With expert eyes, the cytotechnologist looks for the smallest abnormalities in color, shape and size that can be clues to the presence of disease.
Cytotechnologists can work in Hospitals and Private Laboratories, always under the supervision of a Registered Pathologist.
The cytotechnologist makes a judgmental decision as to what is normal and abnormal by analyzing cellular patterns and subtle changes in both the nucleus and cytoplasm of cells while correlating the patient's clinical history.
Christine McCully is a licensed and board certified cytotechnologist in the state of California, and she has been working in the field for 17 years.