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A histotechnologist is someone that is part of a medical laboratory team that works with human, animal or plant specimens to diagnosis disease and abnormalities. Their main function is to prepare tissue samples for analysis. This is a complex process and involves putting the specimen through a variety of preparatory steps. These steps include staining, processing, trimming, and other techniques that require a specific skill set. To achieve accurate testing, the histotechnologist must have the skills and training to perform complex scientific testing.
Histotechnologists are the people behind the scenes. They are the unsung heroes who work tirelessly with the pathologist to prepare, process and analyze specimens to determine the presence or absence of disease. They make an enormous impact on the lives of human and animals around the globe. They help solve crimes, develop new treatment modalities for disease, and assist in making everyday products like plant food more effective. They touch every aspect of human, animal and plant life through the discoveries and tests they perform.
Using a scientific process, the histotechnologist prepares the specimen, then performs a series of tests depending on what the practitioner requests. An example would be to test a biopsy for the presence of cancerous cells. The process requires meticulous attention to the scientific process. If the histotechnologist is sloppy, or misses a step, the results will be inaccurate. Inaccurate results could have catastrophic consequences for the donor of the sample.
Upon receipt of the sample, the histotechnologist begins preparing it by “grossing" or trimming the specimen so that it will fit onto the slide. There are numerous ways to accomplish this step and all require advanced training and skills. Once the specimen is ready it has to be treated so that it does not decompose. Specimens may also require staining, embedding or sectioning. All of these functions must be done to exact specifications following a procedure approved by the lab. Failure to follow each step exactly will result in erroneous results.
Histotechnologists typically work in laboratories that are clean, temperate, and organized. They can work for hospitals, doctors' offices, clinical pathology labs, veterinary services, private research labs, pharmaceutical companies, or for government agencies.
In order to become a histotechnologist, you’ll need to have a bachelor’s degree and certification from a National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) or Committee on Allied Health Education and Accreditation (CAHEA) accredited program. Certification is highly recommended because many employers require it. The American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) offers national certification and testing, which earns histotechnologists the title Certified Histotechnologist (CHTL).
Difference between a histotechnician and a histotechnologist:
- The histotechnician receives their training through a laboratory-sponsored program or completes an Associate Degree in Applied Science Technology. A histotechnician can assist the histotechnologist, but cannot perform many of the higher-level tasks.
Prepare histologic slides from tissue sections for microscopic examination and diagnosis by pathologists. May assist in research studies.
Television shows set in hospitals tend to focus on the doctors and nurses who work in high-stress, high-drama areas such as the surgical suite and emergency room. The life of a histology technician or other laboratory staff isn't nearly as dramatic, and that's part of the career's appeal.
Histotechnologists have close working relationships with many professionals in the healthcare field. Whether they are preparing slides for the pathologist or rushing results of suspicious tissue to the anesthesiologist in the operating room, histotechnologists play a crucial role in ensuring the safety and accuracy of treatment for patients.
The primary functions of histotechnologists and histologic technicians are to prepare and dispose of laboratory slides used by pathologists.
All histotechnicians have certain common characteristics. They are problem solvers. They like challenge and responsibility. They are accurate, reliable, work well under pressure and are able to finish a task once started.
Histotechnology centers on the detection of tissue abnormalities and the treatment for the diseases causing the abnormalities.