A pathologist assistant (PA) studies the anatomy of the human body, specifically cells, tissues, organs and bodily fluids, to understand diseases. Pathologist assistant jobs are similar to those of pathologists, but a pathologist assistant cannot make a diagnosis. The two doctors often work closely, and the PA consults with the pathologist and relies heavily on his or her additional training.
To become a pathologist assistant, a specific training program must be completed. Most programs take between four and six years to complete, and the student emerges with either a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Most who pursue pathologist assistant jobs are good critical thinkers who possess solid problem-solving skills. A PA should excel in math and science courses, as training will focus highly on subjects such as biology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology and physics. The successful pathologist assistant should be detail-oriented, possess strong communication skills and be able to work well collaboratively or alone.
Most pathologist assistant jobs fall into the categories of science jobs, hospital jobs or laboratory jobs. In science, these doctors may work at a morgue, performing autopsies and preparing the body for the viewing and funeral. This includes a post-mortem examination, where the PA studies the person’s medical history, takes pictures and writes an autopsy report.
In a hospital, pathologist assistant jobs can take on several different natures. Usually working in a team, the pathologist assistant examines specimens and tissue samples under a microscope, looking for specific diseases. The PA is also qualified to perform surgical procedures, but only a pathologist can diagnose a disease or illness. In a hospital, the pathologist assistant is responsible for regularly cleaning the medical equipment and keeping it sterile. Pathologist assistant jobs require interacting with many different diseases, so a PA should practice sanitary procedures and maintain safety precautions and standards to avoid the spreading of germs.
Laboratory jobs for pathologist assistants involve dissecting and examining specimens for chemical analysis. It is important that a PA accurately records these findings so that further study can be performed. Lab work can also involve working with amoeba and organisms, and these studies can lead to discoveries about human anatomy.
Pathology is a field that is in high demand. Many hospitals, laboratories, funeral homes and government agencies prefer to fill pathology assistant jobs because of the similarities in the duties of a PA and a pathologist.