[Histonet] Re: Recent changes in HT Certification

Lee & Peggy Wenk lpwenk <@t> sbcglobal.net
Mon Mar 20 04:04:19 CST 2006

Karen - 

First of all - congratulations on passing the written/computer portion of
the exam. This is the hardest part for candidates to pass. Most people, if
they pass the written, also pass the practical. So the hardest part is done
for you. Now onto the practical part, which you needed to do anyway to
become a certified histotech. It just looks like this will happen a little
sooner than you had planned.

I don't know if you saw my very long Histonet discussion on 03/14/2006, so
I'm including it below, after my comments.

Program Directors of NAACLS accredited HT/HTL programs were notified about 2
months ago via email, that the PRACTICAL portion of the HT and HTL exams was
being dropped - that 2006 would be the last year it was required. In the
future, just the written (computer) portion of the HT and HTL exam will be
required to be a certified HT/HTL. Just like MT/MLT/CT only have to take
their written portions to become certified - they don't have to take a
practical exam.

So the HT certification is NOT being discontinued. Just the practical
requirement is being discontinued. The written/computer portion only will be
given in the future.

(Also, a little aside - as of January 2005, the window of taking and passing
both parts (written and practical) of the HT/HTL exams was changed from 5
years to 3 years. Candidates who passed the written in 2005 (like yourself)
now had 3 years in which to take and pass the practical exam. That should
have been in the letter all 2005 candidates received, and program directors
were notified of this change last year, also.)

Please note - it was program directors of NAACLS accredited HT/HTL programs
that were notified of the 3 year change and the practical change, NOT
academic advisors at colleges. I don't know, maybe this is one and the same
person for you. Maybe it's two different people.

Concerning your statement that there is no established program in the US
that culminates in the HT degree and the ASCP certification. That is
correct. The ONLY way to become ASCP certified is to take and pass the ASCP
Board of Registry (BOR) certification exam. It's the same way with nurses -
they complete nursing school and then they take their Boards separately.
There is no nursing school that automatically says "you are a Board
certified nurse" immediately upon graduation.

In order to take the HT/HTL exam, candidates must either: 
- complete a NAACLS accredited histotechnology program, OR 
- earn their college degree with the correct amount of biology and chemistry
AND obtain 1 year full time histotechnology experience. 

What attending a NAACLS school does is allow someone to take the ASCP BOR
certification exam IMMEDIATELY upon graduation from the NAACLS program, vs.
having to earn an associate degree and then obtain 1 year full time
histology experience (on-the-job experience (OJT)) before being allowed to
take the HT exam (or having to earn a bachelor's degree and then obtain 1
year full time histology experience before being allowed to take the HTL
exam). So attending a NAACLS accredited program shortens this time frame to
take the certification exam by 1 year. Also, the majority of NAACLS
graduates pass the HT/HTL exams, while the majority of OJT graduates do not

The passing score that you have earned on the written is NOT "obsolete one
month after grading". That written/computer score is still good, but the
practical portion still needs to be taken and passed before becoming a
certified histotech. Passing only one portion is not enough to be considered
"certified". Since the practical requirement is being dropped after 2006,
all candidates who previously passed the written portion must now pass the
practical by the end of the 2006, in order to be ASCP certified. Candidates
have between now and the deadline for the November practical grading to cut
and stain nine (9) slides. If candidates who previously passed the written
don't take the practical in 2006, or if they fail the 2006 practical, they
still can retake the written portion of the NEW HT exam in 2007 and pass
that way. So there are still options out there for these candidates.

Hopefully the lab where you are working has enough tissue variety for you to
obtain the tissues for the practical portion. If you need any help obtaining
some of the tissues that are required, let the Histonetters know. We've
helped other people obtain the one or two "hard to get" tissues.

As my comments from last week (see below) state, call Gerry Piscorski at
ASCP BOR for more information about why the practical was dropped, or to
talk about your concerns about your status. She is definitely willing to
talk with people. This is definitely a big change for the histotech

As for your concerns about the quality of your training, please call NAACLS
(773-714-8880). They are the agency that accredits HT/HTL programs (as well
as MT/MLT/etc.). They need to hear your concerns and problems with the
rotation part of your program.

Comments from last week below.

Peggy A. Wenk, HTL(ASCP)SLS
Program Director, HT and HTL Programs
William Beaumont Hospital
Royal Oak, MI 48073

- - -  

Yes, the HT and HTL practical exams are being discontinued starting in 2007.
In other words, 2006 is the last year it will be required.

(If you're not interested, please hit "delete" at this point, as I'm going
to get wordy.)

There was information on the ASCP Board of Registry (BOR) web page. However,
ASCP recently redid their entire web page, and this information is in queue
to be put back up on the new pages. (In other words, they didn't drop it, it
just hasn't been put back up.)

I'll fill you in on what I know, learned by reading an email sent to all
HT/HTL program directors about 2 months ago, and what was talked about at
educator's forum at the 2005 NSH meeting in Florida. Also, I talked with Dr.
Blair Holladay (head of ASCP BOR) when the email first came out, and with
Gerri Piscorski (exam manager) (312-541-4887), after that, to get more

Histotechs were the only category still required to do a practical. Med
techs don't have to prove they can make a blood smear or can do a Gram stain
or can streak an agar plate. Cytotechs don't have to prove they can make a
FNA smear or do a Pap stain. Phlebotomists don't have to prove they can get
blood from someone with collapsed veins, or do a heel stick on a newborn.
All other categories are tested by just a written exam.

The majority of histotechs pass the practical portion. Of those that don't
pass the practical, the majority of these also did not pass the written
portion. In other words, very few people pass the written but fail the
practical. Most either pass the practical/fail the written, or they fail
both parts, or they pass both parts. So the written portion of the HT/HTL
exam was a better indicator of who would pass/fail both parts, than the
practical exam.

The cost of the grading of the practical exams was very high - flying
histotechs and pathologists into Chicago from all over the country, putting
them up in hotels for the weekend, feeding them. The graders were not being
extravagent - pizza for lunch, sharing cabs to the grading center, etc. The
number of slides was reduced from 15 to 9, in part to reduce the number of
graders needed, thus reducing the cost. (By statistically picking the right
combination of tissues and stains, 9 slides were giving the same pass/fail
rate as the previous 15 slides.) The fee charged to the HT/HTL candidates
did not cover the cost of grading the practical exam. Not even when an
additional $75 fee was added. So ASCP BOR was losing money with each
practical exam.

Due to concerns about HIPAA, confidentiality, shipping, etc., many
candidates were having difficult times obtaining tissue (especially students
in college based histotech programs, that were doing rotations in hospital
labs for, say, 2 months).

This idea of dropping the practical exam has been around for quite a few
years. Reducing the number of slides on the practical from 15 to 9 was a
compromise, a stepping stone if you would.

The people on the ASCP BOR Histotechnology Exam Committee have been taking
pictures of poor staining and sectioning artifacts. These will be
incorporated into future written exams as troubleshooting and
problem-solving questions. What are the causes and how to correct thick/thin
sections, wrinkles, folds, splits, microchatter, etc. So the exam is being
re-written to incorporate more staining and sectioning problems.

Remember, the ASCP BOR Histology Exam Committee with histotechs very
involved with NSH, were involved in this discussion/decision. NSH Board has
a representative on the Histology Exam Committee/ASCP Board of Governors,
who was involved with this topic. ASCP BOR also talked with program
directors of HT/HTL schools about this at the NSH convention, asking their
opinion. And this topic has been discussed at various committees that I've
been on, for the past several years. So it's been coming, slowly, for
somewhere over the last 6 years, maybe closer to 10 years, that I'm aware

Now, some questions you may be having
- What is going to happen to the people who didn't pass the practical last
year or the year before (2005, 2004)?
    Each one has been sent a letter, informing them at they must take and
pass the practical in 2006 (this year). If they don't pass the practical
this year, then they will not have passed their HT or HTL exam.

- What about the people taking the HT/HTL exam for the first time this year
(2006), who don't pass? 
    They will be given one more year (2007) to take the "make up" practical,
in order to pass their HT/HTL exam. So, for just these few people, they will
be allowed to take the practical in 2007. But no one else.

- How will I know if someone I'm thinking about hiring can really cut or
stain, if they don't have to do a practical exam for ASCP?
    My suggestion - having them do a "practical exam" as part of their
interview with you. Hand them 6 blocks, put them in front of a microtome,
and give them 20 minutes to section. Then interview them more (to use up
time during the drying), and have them load the H&E stainer. While the
slides are staining, have a folder of slides for them to look at - some H&E,
some special stains. Ask them to identify the stains or the tissue or what's
wrong with a poorly stained slide. As long as you use the same type of
tissues in the blocks, and the same stained slides, and have EVERY candidate
do the test - this is perfectly acceptable way to assess someone you are
interviewing for a position. By this time, the H&Es are done. Have them
coverslip them.

If you still have questions, PLEASE contact Gerry (see direct phone number
above). She is very willing to talk with people about this (or any other
question you have about the HT/HTL exams. ASCP is THE best place to go to
for questions about ASCP. 

-----Original Message-----
From: histonet-bounces <@t> lists.utsouthwestern.edu
[mailto:histonet-bounces <@t> lists.utsouthwestern.edu] On Behalf Of Karen
Sent: Sunday, March 19, 2006 7:20 PM
To: histonet
Subject: [Histonet] Re: Recent changes in HT Certification


  I am curious if anyone out there is aware of the reasoning behind the
discontinuation of the ASCP certification for HT's as of December 2006?  I
was told, upon graduation, that there was a five year window within which to
become registered.  I graduated many years ago with a B.A., M.A.(eq) but
returned to study for the AAS in Applied Lab Science and graduated with a
4.0 in Histotechnology in May 2005.  I took the computerized test
immediately and passed with a very high score.  So many histotechs are
needed; however, most of the hiring managers (many of whom I hope read this
E-mail) base everyone's skill level on their current education ONLY and the
lack of an ASCP certification.  There is no established program in the
Continental United States that culminates in the acquisition of both the HT
(or HTL) degree and the ASCP certification.  I welcome being corrected if
someone knows of such a program.  It took me several months to gain
employment and I am limited in time and acquisition of tissue at this point.
I was not too concerned because I believed that I had ample time to become
registered.  I received a letter last week from the Board of Registry
directing me to sign up immediately for the November practical because the
ASCP would no longer  be available to HT graduates after December 2006.  My
main question is ....What are the implications of this move?  What good is
an ASCP certification if it is obsolete one month after grading?  My
academic advisor was not made aware of this move until I wrote and called.
The program coordinators are not being informed by the Board of Registry and
it is simply not just for people to be sucked into a program, allowed to pay
for an education only to graduate without the ability to get the
certification they will be asked for just to be considered for a hospital or
lab based position.  I have found the whole experience frustrating and in a
constant state of flux.  The HT's and HTL's with years of experience believe
that all newcomers are academicians who cannot perform the tasks of the lab.
The problem that I have seen is that there are no real "teachers" or
instructors left in the world of Histotechnology.  Everyone is an
administrator and a student must force themselves into the program and into
the mix of the lab in order to learn anything.  I was "tested" by a HT
veteran of 14 years who had to use Carson's textbook just to denote the
color of collagen in a Trichrome stain.  She then told my advisor that I
passed the test and could even "pronounce all the big words without looking
at the book!"  Is this the REAL world of "old" Histology.  Funny, I
graduated with my first degree in the late '80's and I never met a
researcher in Biological Sciences who required a textbook to test my
knowledge.  I have written to the Board of Registry and, of course, heard
nothing.  This is a sweeping and unjust move on a recent graduate and, even
given the abilities, one may not be able to live, breathe and eat
Histotechnology in order to meet a goal imposed at the eleventh hour.  
  If anyone knows anything about this ruling and why these changes are being
introduced so swiftly, please respond to
KDrummey <@t> msncom<mailto:KDrummey <@t> msn.com>.  If anyone can justify the ruling
I would be most happy to hear from you and, if you are a Board Member, maybe
you could reimburse my tuitions and expenses for the last two years I have
spent proving that I remember what I learned 20 years ago and then justify
the end of career that never got off the ground.

Thank You...KDrummey <@t> msn.com_______________________________________________
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