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Pathology consultants are clinical laboratory doctors who specialize in performing diagnostic tests on samples of blood, fluid, and tissue. Consultants work in private laboratories that are not generally affiliated with specific hospitals. Rather, it is common for pathology consultants to offer services for several different hospitals, clinics, and private doctors. Professionals strive to identify, interpret, and send back test results as quickly as possible so physicians can determine appropriate treatment options.
In addition to sending along actual samples, physicians usually provide consultants with information about patients' symptoms and requests for specific tests to be performed. Pathology consultants are very knowledgeable about different types of diseases, and they are rigorous in their experimental methods to ensure accurate diagnoses. After a sample has been thoroughly studied, a pathologist creates a custom report to send back to the physician. In addition, a consultant might provide his or her professional opinion about medications or treatments based on clinical results.
Pathology consultants and their assistants utilize many types of sophisticated laboratory equipment, including microscopes, cell counters, and tissue stainers. They work with biopsied tissue from skin and organs as well as samples of blood, urine, saliva, and stool. Pathologists at a private laboratory often specialize by conducting certain tests or analyzing particular kinds of tissue. It is common for a laboratory to house doctors with expert knowledge of blood diseases, cancer, heart and lung conditions, and gastrointestinal disorders.
Since pathology consultants operate their own laboratories, they are responsible for hiring and training workers, finding clients, and purchasing equipment. Consultants make sure their facilities meet quality standards and that their employees are aware of the latest advancements in technology and testing procedures to ensure accurate results. Pathology consultants usually collect payments for services directly from patients, rather than billing doctors or hospitals. Administrative workers are employed at private laboratories to negotiate bills with insurance companies and set up patient payment plans.
An individual who is interested in becoming a pathology consultant must first complete medical school and about three years of residency training at a hospital. A pathology resident has the opportunity to gain practical laboratory experience under the supervision of established pathologists. Many professionals choose to pursue additional two-year fellowships in specific areas of pathology after completing residency training to improve their credentials and skills. After completing a fellowship, a new doctor can take a licensing examination administered by a national board to officially become a pathologist.