[Histonet] Advice on Training Histology Lab Assistants

Amber McKenzie amber.mckenzie <@t> gastrodocs.net
Mon Jun 23 13:33:33 CDT 2008

Question about the training of lab assistants into Histology:  How do
you decide if want/need to train someone on our field?  Do you ever have
a "feeling" that your lab assistant wouldn't be a good candidate for
histology?  That maybe she wants to do it for the money and not the love
of Histology?  And, do you train on your own time vs in your spare time?
Do you charge your company extra for being a teacher or do it out of the
goodness of your heart?

My situation is that I have a lab assistant who does the accessioning,
grossing of GI's, and types the gross description/clinical history. She
watches/observes me when she has down time and now she thinks that it's
an easy job...she can do it...wants to make more money (she has
researched Histology on the internet) and doesn't want to be a lab
assistant her whole life (can't blame her).  And, she has a B.S. in
Business so no background in biology.  She has plans to take online
classes to get her HT certification and I guess (although she hasn't
discussed it with me) she'll want me to train her in the lab to do the
cutting and staining. 

How do you train someone in Histo when they have another job to do or
the fact that you don't need another HT in your lab?  So, if I train her
and she gets certified and we have no openings, then she just quits and
finds an HT job elsewhere and I lose a lab assistant?

I know lots of question, but I've been thinking a lot about this
situation and can't decide what to do.

Amber McKenzie, BS, HT (ASCP)

-----Original Message-----
From: histonet-bounces <@t> lists.utsouthwestern.edu
[mailto:histonet-bounces <@t> lists.utsouthwestern.edu] On Behalf Of Histonet
Sent: Tuesday, June 10, 2008 12:21 PM
To: McKnight, Tanisha; HistoNet Server
Subject: Re: [Histonet] Advice on Training Histology Lab Assistants

Hi Tanisha,

Here in Canada, Medical Laboratory Assistants have been used as a vital 
part of the laboratory workforce for  many years.  The national 
certifying body, the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Sciences, 
has adopted the MLA group and has established a National Syllabus of 
Studies and required competencies for each laboratory discipline. By 
standardizing the required competencies and the training of MLA's, it is

possible to clearly define the precise role and duties that an MLA is 
permitted to perform.

The duties that MLA's perform have been specifically chosen to avoid any

erosion of responsibilities from the technologist's duties. In practice,

certified technologists can perform any and all duties in the 
laboratory, whereas MLA's may perform only specific tasks. MLA's are 
paid on a lower scale than a certified technologist to reflect their 
more limited responsibilities. The separation of technologist's and 
assistant's duties is vital, especially in a situation where employers 
may be tempted to employ the less expensive of the two groups in order 
to cut their costs.

Medical Laboratory Assistants are permitted to work in the gross room, 
accessioning specimens, entering data into the computer, labeling 
cassettes, filing and retrieving specimens, filing and retrieving 
blocks. The assistants also maintain the tissue processors and fluid 
levels. However, gross descriptions, specimen selection and dissection 
are the sole responsibility of the technologists. Embedding, sectioning,

frozen sections, and staining are also the responsibility of the 
technologists. By assigning the more mundane, but still critical, tasks 
to less qualified personnel, the technologists are available to 
concentrate on the more demanding procedures. This system has worked 
very well and very effectively for many years.

There is a distance education course for Histology Assistants offered 
through the Open Learning Division of Thompson Rivers University of 
British Columbia. This is specifically written for workers who have no 
prior knowledge of histology. It focuses on "pre-analytical procedures" 
but also provides a good deal of background information on diagnostic 
histopathology, tissues, fixation, tissues types, common specimens, 
tissue processing, filing, storage. It also covers some aspects of 
specimen preparation for cytology specimens, fluids, aspirates, etc.


The Open Learning course is available to anyone, anywhere, and may be 
completed within a very flexible time frame. The current cost of the 
course is $400.00, including all course materials, examinations, on-line

tutors, and toll-free tutor phone calls.

Paul Bradbury,
Kamloops, Canada

McKnight, Tanisha wrote:
> Hello All:
> I have a few people, now working in accessioning, who are interested
> working in Histology. I am thinking of potentially creating "Histology
> Lab Assistant" positions to help them transition. They have already
> told that they will need to go through an accredited program to become
> full Techs. We have one here in Indiana that I went through and it is
> great. 
> Can you all share your strategies for training? How do you separate
> Assistants are allowed to do from what Techs do? What regulatory
> guidelines do you follow if any when deciding? 
> I was thinking of training them to embed and create sections first (on
> limited specimen types). I would not allow certain biopsies or really
> small specimens. Under regulations, would sectioning and embedding be
> considered "testing"? 
> Any help or advice would be appreciated.
> Tanisha N. McKnight, HT (ASCP)
> Covance CLS Indianapolis
> Specimen Management, Anatomic Pathology
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