Saturday, March 22, 2008

Have you ever wondered what I do all night?

While most of you are sleeping, I'm busy working. I will tell you all a little bit about my profession, histopathology, and some of my favorite areas of work.

These summaries are taken from the National Society of Histotechnology website.

What is Histotechnology?
The Art and Science of Histotechnology: A Career to Consider

The birth of histologic technique dates back to 1664 when Robert Hooke cut sections of cork with his pen knife and observed them under a microscope. In 1670, Leeuwenhoek made sections from a quill, a bovine optic nerve and the centers of dried flowers using his hand sharpened razor. These events were the beginning of what was to become an important and unique laboratory discipline.

Histology is a structural science concerned with the demonstration of cellular morphology, chemical composition and function of normal and abnormal tissue. Many dyes and chemicals are used in histology and it is necessary to know their composition and how they act and react with each other. This knowledge, combined with an understanding of tissue composition, enables the histotechnologist to appropriately treat the tissue of interest. The end result yields a tissue section exhibiting distinct colors, making it possible to distinguish tissue structures through microscopic examination.

Histotechnology is a dynamic profession with new technology and methodology continually evolving. Once formal training is complete, there are numerous opportunities for continuing education via professional state societies and through the National Society for Histotechnology.

Scientist. Anatomist. Chemist. Medical Professional. A career in histotechnology is composed of these and much more. The search to unlock the secrets held by tissue structure reaches into many fields. It is through the skills of the histotechnologist that these secrets are revealed with color and clarity. Where such medical and scientific activity is pursued, it is certain that the histotechnologist will be regarded as a valuable member of the team.

If you make your decision to enter the healthcare profession and dedicate your life to the highest standards of excellence and integrity, your reward will include career satisfaction enjoyed by only a select few.
As a result of the histotechnologist’s skillful application of sophisticated laboratory techniques, the seemingly invisible world of tissue structure becomes visible under the microscope. Without the skills and expertise of the histotechnologist, many diagnoses could not be accurately made. Since this process requires a number of different skills, histotechnology is one of the most versatile of all the laboratory professions. The diverse tasks performed by the histotechnologist require patience, mechanical ability, knowledge of biology, physics, anatomy and chemistry; and the ability to work quickly but carefully.

Histotechnology is a career with many diverse specializations. The frozen section technique, which assists surgeons during patient surgery, requires the histotechnologist to perform STAT preparations of suspicious tissues sent from the Operating Room. Speed, accuracy and cooperation are critical. The surgeon, anesthesiologist and other operating room personnel await histologic diagnosis before proceeding with surgery.

With specialized training, histotechnologists may choose a career in electron microscopy. There, tissues are much smaller than those used in histology and are actually cut with the use of a microscope. Specific techniques and precise skills produce sections thin enough to allow the transmission of an electron beam to reveal tissue and cellular ultrastructure.

Another highly specialized area, immunohistochemistry includes the staining of antigenic sites to identify tumor cell lines within the tissue using various stains and antibodies.

Mastering these and other techniques, including certification by an accrediting institution, are essential in order to enter the medical profession of histotechnology. It is challenging and rewarding work.

So, there you have your generic description of Histology. I spend most of my night preparing slides for microscopic evaluation. I spend part of the night doing Qualtiy Control/Quality Assurance to make sure that all our testing is reliable and accurate. A recent case which involved a healthy kidney being removed instead of the cancerous kidny are just some of the errors that can happen in diagnosis of diseases. It was not known that that the wrong kidney was removed until a pathologist looked at the kidney microscopically on slides prepared by a histotechnologist.

I'm also very interested in specialized procedures of Immunohistochemistry. Some of the most valuable tests are for Her2neu and ER/PR(estrogen receptor/progesterone receptor) which are valuable for the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer.

Enough of all the science talk. Hope you enjoyed getting a glimse into my career.


Blogger UmmAbdurRahman said...

blah blah blah BOORRRRIIIING! I swear it's more interesting than it sounds. well, not really but it's my career and I like it.

7:06 PM  
Blogger iMuslimah said...

Assalamu alaykum,

We have something kind of in common, I am a Clinical Laboratory Technologist. I actually love my job. It involves testing whole blood, serum, plasma, stools, and bodily fluids for various disease states and/or cellular content. I am classified as a generalist, but do not do microbiology ( I cannot handle the odors). I would say hematology and immunoheamtology are my favorite sub-departments to work in. Microscopy is my favorite skill.

How do the chemicals affect you in histo? I hold my breath on the rare occassion I need to walk into histology/pathology.

I just find that laboratory science is something I can really sink my teeth into. Working behind the scenes is neat too. Most Drs, nurses and other allied health professionals have NO idea what we do.

We recently went through licensure in our state, and it has turned the field upside-down and backwards. Hope we can recover soon, as we are having a major shortage of qualified techs now.

I work evenings, and will return full-time several months after my child is born inshaallah. It's a good skill to have, and want to stay sharp. I am happy I can help provide for our growing family :)

Good post!


9:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a Histotech from the UK, I came to the US about 7 years ago. I have worked all over the US and I see the same problem, a lack of HTs. Anyone who wants to become a Histologist it is not so difficult, see the ASCP web site.
Thanks for raising our profile UmmAbdurRahman, good work.

Anthony Williams.

5:10 AM  
Blogger UmmAbdurRahman said...

Imuslimah you know it's funny because there is such a division between the clinical and pathology labs at our hospital. They treat us as if we are mumbling idiots off the street. As if we didn't go to school or anything. When I tell them all the work we do they are actually surprised.

My state is currently pushing for licensure as well. Wasn't there a "grandfathering" in of techs in your state?

I actually can't get into the clincial lab sid. All of the disgusting things I see all day ar enothing compared to blood, poop, and sputum. I just can't take it. As far as histochemicals, xylene is a killer. We want to switch to a xylene substitute but the doctors say that the quality suffers too much. I think that might just be hogwash, but that's what they say and they won't budge. We recently had a xylene spill and had to shut the lab down.

Thanks for the info about your career too!

5:53 AM  
Blogger UmmAbdurRahman said...

Hi Anthony, thanks for stoppping by my little corner of the world. It's nice to ge in touch with other histotechs especially since there are so few of us.

You are right the process is easy, but I dont want people to think that the degree is a joke. Like most other allied health positions they require an associates degree and even have bachelor degrees as well. I think that laboratory professionals are looked down upon too much in the medical field. I've realized that with my associates I make quite a bit more than some people with a 4 year degree. It's a very practical and working degree. Once you get certified the opportunities, around the world, are endless.

5:58 AM  
Blogger Miss Muslimah said...

Assalaamu alaikum

Its funny becuase im debating between two things:Labratory technologist or nursing....not too sure which one i'll go with yet...thanks for the insight imuslimah and UAR!

1:53 PM  
Blogger UmmAbdurRahman said...

missmuslimah, in the state I live in CLS(clinical laboratory scientists) start at $25/hour. not to shabby. add shift differentials if you work at night and you're making close to $60,000

It's agreat field. Let us know what you decide.

1:59 PM  
Blogger Solace said...

Your job sounds very interesting!

2:00 PM  
Blogger iMuslimah said...

Assalamu alaykum sister,

I think grossing and looking at tissue specimens requires a much stronger stomach that handling urine and stool! I also think that your specimens are irretrievable, hence the slighest variation in technique, instrument failure or tech error can have more serious consequences.

Fortunately we have a very good rapport with the histo/path techs team, as the pathologists are awesome, and the histo/cyto techs are very good at keeping us informed. We do have regular contact with them, because the pathologists review any peripheral smears or bodily fluids that appear to have abnormal cellular content.

I am so curious to shadow them for a day, but I sincerely cannot handle the fumes. What a shame, I feel that I am missing a vital part of the laboratory as a whole.

To answer your questions, there is a grandfathering clause, but it is not clear and has ended up excluding a lot of sub-specialties. Also, depending on your prior work experience and degree, you either got grandfathered as a techincian or a technologist (the difference in pay is significant). Additionally, it's been two years since the licensure came into effect, and the dept of education still has not formualted an exam for new techs; hence creating a situation where they are "in limbo" working with a permit. Let me also mention that it takes FOREVER to get a permit. It has not been mentioned if the dept of education will accept ASCP or NCA passing test scores in lieu of taking the state exam.

Im happy we are licensed, as I think it has brought to light that laboratorians are an integral part of healthcare and has earned us more respect. Think about it, if you need a license to cut hair or to be a manicurist, why not for someone who will produce results that have a direct impact on diagnosis and prognosis?

Wishing you luck & success on your career path inshaallah,


8:00 PM  
Blogger Aeryn said...

Asalaam Alaikum Sister,

I have read some of your other posts and have wondered what you did at night, so thank you for a interesting post. I have had some health problems in the past that I am imagining were somewhat dealt with by histotechnologists, so it is interesting to hear about what all is involved.

I wish you much happiness Sister, and a good visit overseas insha'Allah.


8:28 PM  
Blogger Yasmine said...

oh how cool, I am in the sciene field also looking into being a research scientists/ doctor inshallah. I really enjoy science its almost too weird and nerdy...oh well so what i like it. I've noticed alot of muslimahs are in the scienitific field. hmmmmm I wonder why....? (thinking)

11:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ummabdurrahman, you have written a lovely description of your profession! I'm a medical technologist-- I work in hematology, evenings. I'm preparing a post for my blog about my job, so I was surprised and delighted to see yours.

Amazing, isn't it, how many of us muslimah bloggers are in the medical field.

Anyone considering laboratory work vs. nursing should be aware of two important facts. First of all, nurses make significantly more money than medical technologists, even though the med tech curriculem is much more difficult. Second of all, nurses are people- persons, people-oriented, and generally extraverts rather than introverts.

Lab people work more independently, and almost never see a patient or even a nurse. While the nurse focuses upon the patient, med techs focus upon what comes out of the patient.

8:49 PM  

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