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A cytotechnologist is a 'cell detective', and plays a crucial part in the discovery and detection of disease, cancer, and pre-cancerous changes in cells using a microscope. They compare normal and abnormal cell anatomy and then evaluate the significance of the differences in order to identify disease in various stages. Cytotechnology is a health specialty that offers exciting possibilities for those interested in a career in science and a significant role in health care.
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.
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.
In the United States, cytotechnology training programs are offered at the baccalaureate and post-baccalaureate (certificate) levels and are located in both university and hospital/laboratory settings. Students may be admitted to a cytotechnology program in their junior or senior year of college or after they have completed their undergraduate studies. Specific course requirements vary somewhat among schools; however, 28 credits of sciences including chemistry and the biological sciences upon completion of a cytotechnology program and three of mathematics, statistics or equivalent are recommended.
Graduates of accredited programs may take the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) Cytotechnology (CT) certification exam, which is required by many employers. State licensure is also required by several states, but ASCP registration may fulfill licensing requirements in some states (www.ascp.org). An experienced CT with a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree may obtain additional ASCP certification to become a specialist in cytotechnology, which is generally required for supervisory or academic careers.
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.