RE: [Histonet] Histotechnician productivity

From:"Jasper, Thomas G."


I am quite certain that you'll get a variety of opinions on this topic.  In
approaching this "mission" I think you need to be clear about 2 things. 1)
What is the scope of your service? and 2) Where are you going?
You do mention a 50-60 block per day figure and basic clinical histology
duties performed in general manually.  Does this currently work well for
you?  Are your pathologists happy with the turnaround time and the quality
of the work they receive?  Are you trying to expand your business?  Are your
volumes naturally increasing and/or are they projected to increase?  Do you
want to develop technically, i.e. Immunohistochemistry, In Situ
Hybridization?  Are you looking at automating some of your current
processes, i.e. special stains and coverslipping?
Holy buckets! That's a lot of questions right out of the gate!  But, you
need to answer questions like these to make an accurate assessment and good
decisions.  One thing I'm willing to bet is that your organization is
looking to save money.  That's very understandable in this day and age,
however you've got to be real careful in doing it.  Evaluate your service
very carefully as this will reveal true costs and true savings.  This may
not apply to you, but for instance, take estrogen and progesterone
receptors.  I'm guessing that you probably send those tests out somewhere.
How much does that cost?  Do you have the talent in-house to take it on
yourself?  If you do and your volumes warrant it, you may save money.  Money
that's easily demonstrated up front and savings in other ways such as faster
turnaround times.  This in turn increases the overall value of your service
and makes the techs more valuable as well.  Again, this may not apply to you
I just created a scenario to make a point.
This leads me to your last statement which is concerning, and that's the
comment about losing a position or two.  I firmly believe that people are
the greatest asset of an organization.  You need to hold on to positions
with tenacity.  Everyone wants to do more with less, and that's great.  I
like the modification of doing more with what you've got, especially if
you've got good people.  Even if the people aren't that good you can try to
get others as long as you still have positions to fill.  Good histotechs are
hard to find, enough said there.
Geez, I really haven't given you any hard numbers and I guess I'm loathe to
do so considering all the unknowns and variables. I can tell you this, years
ago when I worked in a contract lab (non-clinical, sweatshop) we were
expected to cut 200 blocks in 8 hours with no more than 15 recuts.  I did
learn to cut pretty fast there but I wouldn't recommend it.  I track hours
and production here very closely but comparisons are not going to be apples
to apples.  I value quality over quantity and I expect that people will do
their best day in and day out.  Techs are people and some are stronger in
different areas than others.  We average 200-250 blocks per day, with 2
techs embedding and 3-4 techs cutting.  We try to finish cutting in about 5
to 5.5 hours.  Again, this is fraught with variables.  To me, if someone
here is cutting 25 to 30 blocks an hour I think that's pretty good.  Please
excuse my rambling, but this is a tough nut to crack as the world is filled
with shades of grey.
Good luck to you.

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Wednesday, November 02, 2005 8:34 AM
Subject: [Histonet] Histotechnician productivity

Hello Everyone,
            I have been assigned a "mission" by our medical director.  He
wants me to find out  what would be a reasonable number of blocks per day
for a histotech.  I have tried searching the archieves for this information
because I know it seems to be discussed quite often.  However most of the
old threads I found seemed to end up with histology professionals
discussing  that they would not  work in a "factory like" atmosphere where
they are slaves to productivity and turn around times.  Which to be honest
I agree with, histology should be a quality oriented  product.
      I have also looked at the ASCP and NSH websites where this
information is not readily accessible.  I will probably e-mail them to see
if they have any research or insight on this topic.
      The numbers that I am most familiar with, is 50 to 60 blocks per day
per histotech, when one is including embedding, cutting, manual H&E and Pap
staining(gyn & non-gyn), manual coverslipping, manual special stains, and
frozen sections.  I am just not sure how accurate those numbers are for
staffing a histology lab.
      This information is needed because we will be consolidating two
separate small community hospital histology labs onto one campus.
Apparently this will be used to justify the current staff of both
locations. Unfortunately, I believe this information will ultimately be
used to eliminate a position or two.
Thank you for your time
John Sheppard HT(ASCP)

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