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What is a Histology Technician?

By Cassie L. Damewood
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A histology technician, also commonly referred to as a histotechnician or histology technologist, creates slide presentations of diseased cells and tissues for microscopic examination. She collects specimens under the direction of laboratory or clinic personnel. The specimens are analyzed by physicians, normally those specializing in pathology.

After the specimens are collected, the histology technician is directed in how to preserve them. Depending on the proposed disposition of the specimens, they may be frozen or preserved in paraffin or plastic. A common technique called staining may be used on the slide samples to aid in identifying different structures in the tissues.

The technician is trained and authorized to determine which samples are viable. The samples in her charge commonly consist of ones she has gathered along with those submitted by other medical professionals. Each sample may require specialized handling to maintain viability.

As the specimens undergo examination, the histotechnician monitors their integrity to ensure they remain valid throughout the analytical process. This commonly involves performing quality-control and quality-assurance testing. The equipment, tools and instruments require regular inspection as well to guarantee their compliance with industry standards and accuracy in testing.

In some laboratories, the histology technician is required to develop and implement testing procedures on her own. This requires advanced technical expertise, as well as in-depth knowledge of the type of tissues to be tested. Procedures developed by technicians are often reviewed prior to implementation by pathologists familiar with the tissues in question to be sure they meet stringent guidelines for accuracy.

Attention to detail is a necessary requirement for the success of a histology technician. Every aspect of her job from sample collection through preliminary analysis and final testing depends on accuracy. Error-free record keeping of testing procedures is vital to reaching correct laboratory conclusions.

Detailed reports of laboratory results and testing procedures are regularly compiled by a histology technician. These reports generally are published internally or online for review by the medical community. The technician may be called upon to review the documentation of others for clarity.

In addition to being proficient in the use of light and electron microscopes, a histology technician is expected to be comfortable using other laboratory equipment as well. This equipment may include embedding centers and tissue processors. Familiarity with utilizing computerized and laboratory databases is also helpful.

The educational requirement for a histology technician is a two-year associate’s degree that includes a significant number of biological or chemical science courses. Successful completion of an accredited histotechnology certification program along with two years’ related laboratory experience may also be required. Familiarity with laboratory procedures, health care environments or clinical trials is desirable.

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