Careers in Histotechnology
The histology technician is a vital member of the health care team, facilitating accurate diagnosis and quality patient care by preparing microscopic slides of tissue for examination by a pathologist. Slide preparation requires prompt fixation of tissues obtained from surgery or autopsy, followed by chemical processing. Embedding tissue within a paraffin block allows the histologist to cut one cell-layer thick tissue sections (microtomy). Knowledge and performance of a broad spectrum of routine, special and immunohistochemical staining techniques allows the histology graduate to respond appropriately to a pathologist's need to identify a variety of cellular components and inclusions.
Analysis of stained tissue allows a pathologist to diagnose or rule out disease and malignancies. Highly skilled technicians are especially in demand when preparing frozen sections of tissues (cryotomy) to allow rapid diagnosis within the surgical suites. In these cases, the technician's skill and efficiency directly contribute to the final outcome of the patient's surgical procedure.
The profession has long been involved in tissue preparation for electron microscopy, and is expanding its horizons into immunology with immunohistochemistry staining, and in situ hybridizations that use DNA probe technology.
Histotechnicians work in a variety of laboratory settings, including hospital pathology departments and private labs, as well as in commercial labs where histotechnicians may prepare control tissues or do product testing. Electron microscopy labs and research centers also employ HTs; histotechnicians are found in veterinary science centers and within the armed forces. A career in sales, marketing or client support may be found with a broad spectrum of instrument and supply vendors to the pathology industry. Completing a baccalaureate or masters degree facilitates the histotechnician’s advance into health care management and education opportunities.