RE: Future of Histotechs

From:"Locallo, Catherine"

Dear Thomas,

You may not know this but when I went into histology in 1968, there was a
rumor that the Board of Registry was going to pass a two year associate
degree requirement.  At that time my understanding was that histotechs
didn't need that type of education, so there we sat for years.  The NSH and
the Education committee did see the need so they developed the Thomas A
Edison associate degree program.  Also at that time, ASCP with the efforts
of Desna Sheehan and others worked to develop the HTL, a technologist level
registry.  Unfortunately we didn't have the clout of the cytotechs and
didn't see much of a salary increase.  CLIA 88 also didn't help us much
except that the pathologist can designate a technologist level technical
supervisor in the laboratory even though the pathologist is the "tester" of
the high complexity testing.

I knew education was the key to my development and success in the field I
love dearly and have been in for 34 years.  It took me 10 years between kids
to get my associate degree and then 2 more to get a B.A..  I moved into
management because at that time Histology was truly at the bottom of the
pile.  As Rodney Dangerfield says, "I don't get any respect" ran true for
the field.  I felt this was the only way working in management I could
effect change both in salary and respect for Histology.  The shortages are
not new.  We have had a 14 % vacancy rate back in the early 80's.  At that
time we had nowhere to work except for hospitals and a few research labs.
Now the problem is compounded because we haven't resupplied the field with
new techs. Since there are so many more opportunities in the field other
than working for a hospital, many of the older techs that did work in that
environment have moved to those other jobs.  Who wants to work for a lower
salary, work weekends and in many places a 24 hour lab when you can have the
day after Thanksgiving off and no weekends.

I continue to work for a hospital,  I love the patient care environment and
feel that I still can effect some change.  I am one of the lucky ones, there
is truly a respect for the techs and the hospital does recognize the
shortages in the field.  
We have a career ladder for the techs and I support their development.  My
lab is fully staffed with registered techs. 

I still have 10 to 13 years before I can retire but I love what I do and
maybe with all this talk of shortages in histology and medical field there
will be some radical changes. All I know is education is the key and one
should continue to learn and grow in their field.  I plan on doing that
until I retire.

Cathy Locallo B.A. HT(ASCP),HTL(ASCP)
Director Anatomic Pathology
Children's Memorial Hospital
Chicago, Il 
> -----Original Message-----
> From:	Jasper, Thomas []
> Sent:	Monday, October 21, 2002 6:49 PM
> To:	''
> Subject:	Future of Histotechs
> Dear All,
> I have been following this thread with much interest.  I really believe
> the
> registry eligibility change that is going to take place in 2005 (correct
> me
> if I'm wrong) will help a great deal.  Reference to professionalism on the
> histonet by Vinnie Della Speranza and many others really is central to the
> future of our discipline.  I feel as though I may be preaching to the
> choir,
> but as I tell the upper management people around here, for the last 10
> years
> we have really been "blowin' up"!  What I mean (as most of you know) is
> that
> as a discipline we've expanded, diversified and had new demands placed on
> us
> at a phenomenal rate.
> Solving our problems will not be easy.  I believe it was not as hard in
> the
> past because the pool of people "qualified" to do the work could in large
> part be trained on the job.  Many dedicated and good people were brought
> into the world of histology in such a way.  In the "good old days" it was
> not deemed necessary to tell histotechs about the dangers (both chemical
> and
> biological) that they were exposed to.  This often times went along with
> being put in a corner or basement, you received your pittance and existed
> as
> a cheap commodity.  If you didn't like it chances are someone else could
> be
> found that would.  I certainly do not mean to offend any one who has been
> trained in without a formal education, but education is the key.
> I have seen both sides of the education issue too.  One side being a lab
> with well trained, highly skilled "hands on techs" that have to put up
> with
> some pompous "a**" with a degree who's all thumbs.  Then there's the other
> side that suffers from a lack of professionalism ( i.e., poor
> communication
> skills, lack of ...medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, chemistry
> and biology) this hurts the image of histology professionals particularly
> when dealing with doctors and other degreed laboratory professionals on a
> daily basis.  As many things are in life the answers most likely come from
> a
> middle ground.  Should people working in the world of histology be
> degreed?
> Absolutely!  Can people do the work without it?  Sure if you mean
> embedding,
> cutting and H+E staining, beyond that is probably asking too much.  And
> anyone worth their salt that works beyond those basics today without the
> formal education was probably self starting enough to work like hell to
> learn in the lab.  This takes me to the manual part of our discipline.
> Until someone comes up with a machine that can embed and cut (and I know
> it's only a matter of time) I believe it is imperative that people receive
> the hands on training that is so special to histology and truly makes us
> unique in the field of laboratory science. 
> One of the problems today is the speed at which students are expected to
> get
> through clinical training.  It's ironic that 20 years ago the program I
> went
> through (Wayne's World) required a 6 month internship.  Today with all we
> have added the students we are fortunate enough to receive (thank you Bob
> Brunner) have 12 weeks to get through and prepare for the
> registry...that's
> a lot!  Another issue with the biology degreed individuals (for example)
> is
> that they usually have not been trained specifically in histology,
> particularly in the manual art of it.  My superiors view this as paying a
> wage to someone for clinical training as they will not be productive or in
> a
> sense really ready to be as opposed to someone from a histology program.
> This may be one of the waves of the future.  Providing degreed people with
> the practical training and hoping they will stick with histology. 
> Just an aside to Glen Dawson if you are reading this, it is my
> understanding
> that our beloved Eau Claire program shut down for a few reasons.  One was
> tax dollars back into the school district.  As you well know the world
> needs
> histotechs but you most likely have got to leave Eau Claire and as you go
> so
> goes your financial impact on the community.  The other issue I believe
> had
> to do with the Uniroyal plant shutting down.  A number of disaffected
> workers were put into education programs and some poor choices were made
> for
> histology which ultimately affected clinical sites and unfortunately
> interest in the program.  Thanks to everyone for putting up with my
> ramble.
> Thomas Jasper HT(ASCP)BAS
> Anatomic Pathology Coordinator
> SMDC Clinical Laboratory
> Duluth, MN

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