Re: The future of Histotechs

From:Neil Hand

I do not often post an opinion (though I always read Histonet) but I am
finding the current debate on the future of Histotechs fascinating and
interesting.  It has however been obvious to many Histotechs for several
years that we are an endangered species, and though I work in the UK it is
also apparent that the increasing shortage is a worldwide problem.  Your
problems are ours too.  There are slightly different reasons, but not much

So what has caused this?  The bottom line as someone has already said is
lack of a decent salary that is comparable to other professionals who are
required to undergo similar training and aquire similar qualifications.  If
you are to compete in the market place, for starters salaries need to be
attractive for all grades.  No where is this more important than when
junior/trainee staff are required, because unless you get these people
early and young, it is highly unlikely that you will attract them when they
have been working elsewhere and trained for something else.

But lack of money is not the only cause.  Other factors such as the route
to educate young people via full-time degree courses only which do not
involve a prolonged work experience has been in my opinion flawed.  By all
means have a graduate entry only for "qualified" people, but in the UK
there is a growing realisation that this is best achieved part-time whilst
employed in a laboratory.  That way the laboratory gains from an extra
member of staff, and the junior/trainee gains by valuable training and
prolonged experience in Cellular Pathology, which other schemes do not
match.  (This approach is what many of us did 30 years ago). In the UK
where it is mandatory to become "registered" via an examination in order to
work in the National Health Service (and get "qualified" pay), traincee
full-time graduates are either disillusioned with this system when they
discover training of upto a further two years is required or decide to find
an alternative job.

A further cause I believe for disatisfaction leading to a job change or
reluctance to become a Histotech is an expectation that well educated
graduates want a more demanding role than their precessors.  I don't wish
to offend people, but turning a handle to cut sections day-in day-out is
not what a graduate wants to do for 40 years.  Sure this is an essential
part of any Histology Lab, but you do not need degree(s).  Many
"non-qualified" people are quite capable of this with practice, and in some
labs this is operational.  A well structured, properly balanced staffing
allowing career prospects to all makes sense.   There are so many more
demanding technical aspects to do and solve and certainly here in the UK a
great deal of new strategies also to implement and monitor.  Despite what
many think, running a laboratory or group of them properly with all the
technical, educational, budget, legal and managerial requirements does not
happen automatically, and the best people to do that is is those who work
there and that is Histotechs.  Involvement in additional
activities/reponsibilities can be stimulating especially if accountable,
acknowledged and rewarded.  Recruitment without retention, is of no value
to any organisation.

There many other thoughts that we all have (some of which have previously
been expressed on Histonet), but I believe there lies new opportunities
which could be to Histotechs advantage.  Workloads are generally going
through the roof and there is an increasing need for us.  You can not run
any service without personnel, and I think many pathologists and
governments are beginning to realise you need quality Histotechs.  I really
do feel that the future is up to us.  Lets not foul up and miss out or let
down those who follow.

Neil Hand

Queen's Medical Centre,
England UK

Neil Hand
Department Histopathology, University Hospital, Nottingham NG7 2UH.
work : Tel: (0115) 924 9924 extension 43725

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