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Histology Skill Requirements

by Deb Dupree

Histology involves the study of human tissue under the microscopic to determine possible indicators of illnesses or diseases. Laboratory personnel who obtain, prepare and analyze tissue samples are histology technicians. These technicians perform work responsibilities in conjunction with other laboratory professionals such as histology laboratory managers and medical doctors who are pathologists. Histology technicians typically work in hospitals and medical clinics. Entering this field requires specific skill sets developed through educational programs and clinical work experience.

What You Need to Study

Your career path in histology may begin in high school with studies in math and science. This can make it easier to become successful in the job which is based on medical and life sciences. After high school, a minimum of a two-year associate’s degree is required with some work experience. Many entry-level histology jobs require a four-year bachelor’s degree in a medical laboratory science program. Required studies include chemistry, biology, microbiology and clinical laboratory skills. Additional study to pass a license or certification exam is required depending on your state law.

What You Need to Know

When histology technicians collect tissue samples, the procedure is referred to as scrapings and biopsies. You need to know medical terminology and understand the clinical processes you are expected to perform. Performing laboratory procedures on tissue specimens may occasionally expose personnel to hazardous chemicals and infectious diseases. Histology professionals must know how to work with infectious specimens and use safe work practices and proper methods to control exposures. Wearing protective gear, sterilizing equipment and following federal, state and medical facility rules and regulations are essential.

The Skills You Need to Develop

Working in a laboratory setting requires skills and knowledge in using specialized equipment such as microtomes for cutting tissue specimens and microscopes for specimen analyses. Because of data analysis protocols and other job requirements, skills in operating and using computers and certain computer software applications associated with a variety of lab equipment are also necessary. A histology technician must take direction and communicate findings with doctors and other lab professionals. This requires effective communications and interpersonal skills.

Typical Histology Job Duties

As a histology technician, you need to know how to prepare patient specimens. This involves making sure the specimen sample is collected properly and is suitable for testing. You will also process samples according to laboratory protocol for either on-site testing or transport to a contract laboratory. Technicians also review and log test data and results, maintain laboratory equipment and follow quality control procedures for specimen collection and analysis. As a histology technician, you also ensure laboratory supplies are in stock and that the laboratory is inspection ready in case of regulatory inspections.

About the Author

Deb Dupree has been an active writer throughout her career in the corporate world and in public service since 1982. She has written numerous corporate and educational documents including project reports, procedures and employee training programs. She has a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from the University of Tennessee.

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