A histotechnologist is someone who specializes in preparing tissue samples for examination. These samples may be animal or human in origin, and histotechnologists can be found working in environments like pathology laboratories, hospitals, veterinary facilities, and research institutions. Employment prospects in this field vary, depending on the area in which someone wishes to work, and the level of training which he or she has received.
To become a histotechnologist, people usually obtain a bachelor's degree in the sciences, supplementing with additional training in microscopy, tissue handling, and related topics. In some regions, a histotechnologist may need to be licensed by a government agency or professional organization, and in other areas, it may be possible to simply apply for work in a lab after completing school. People who view histotechnology as a career usually belong to professional organizations so that they can keep up with advances in the field, and they may attend conferences, subscribe to trade journals, and engage in other enrichment activities.
The critical aspect of a histotechnologist's work is preparing samples for examination, and preserving samples. He or she may freeze, dry, or perform other processes to get samples ready for examination, in addition to fixing and staining them on slides and setting up microscopes. Some histotechnologists also perform basic microscopy to identify areas of interest for examination by a pathologist. Other job responsibilities can include writing up results, organizing samples in storage, maintaining protocol to keep the lab safe and clean, and maintaining lab equipment.
In some cases, a histotechnologist needs to be able to work under pressure. For example, a surgeon may take a biopsy during surgery, waiting on pathology results to decide what to do in the surgery, or a histotechnologist might be part of a team responding to an outbreak of disease, in which case he or she would need to move quickly to keep information current and relevant to other members of the team.
Working conditions for a histotechnologist can vary. Usually long hours need to be spend standing up, and a histotechnologist is also routinely exposed to infectious and potentially dangerous material, especially in high security labs which handle specimens of unknown or dangerous diseases. The hours are usually very regular, since labs have specific operating hours, and a high degree of precision and coordination is required to work successfully in a lab environment, as is a team attitude to keep the lab functioning smoothly and to encourage cooperation.