RE: Board of registry

From:"Morken, Tim" <> (by way of histonet)

Mary wrote:
"There is a current staffing shortage in histology; does it make sense to
further it by adding these restrictions? [education requirements for
certification]  Also, what will the added costs be to an already over
burdened medical system as we have in the US?"


This has come up several times before but I, for one, don't mind discussing
it again because there is so much misunderstanding about the real problem.

In the US it is most common for histotechs to be on-the-job trained. You are
one of the lucky ones who had formal training. I had formal training in
electron microscopy, and got an associates degree in that field, but I
learned histotechnology on the job, as did all the people I originally
worked with and learned from, and most of the people I have ever worked
with, so I know all about that.

The field of histotechnology has grown tremendously just since I started in
1982. That was just as immunos were entering the hospital labs. Before that
the most that was ever done was special stains, and most of those had been
in use, almost unchanged, for many, many decades. A high school graduate, or
even someone off the street (as was one fellow in our hospital lab) could
learn the basics in a few years and work for decades with virtually no
changes in their technique, or even learning anything new!

These days a high school grad may still learn to section and do specials,
and even do the motions of immunos and ISH, but they will have a very hard
time understanding what they are doing, and their advancement potential will
be non-existant (usnless they go back to school).

A large problem with on-the-job training is that you only learn what is
available at that job, and then only what is absolutely necessary to get the
work done. It is the rare employee that will go out of their way to learn
things that are "outside the box" , to use current lingo, and so set
themselves up for the future. Formal education is much broader in scope and
prepares you for many eventualities.

I believe an associates degree is the MINUMUM that is necessary to do a
decent job in the histo lab these days. A bachelors is preferable due to the
greater depth of theory you will be exposed to. I agree that almost anyone
can do the motions of the work we do, and much of the sectioning work is
truely a craft, but hands-on job experience only goes so far in preparing
you to deal with the plethora of new technologies and methodologies coming
down the pipe. If anyone thought immunos were a tough thing to understand
and figure out you ain't seen nothing yet! A high-school education will be
woefully inadequate for the future!

As to the shortage of histotechs, I believe that taking the profession to a
higher level will actually attract more people. How many college grads would
enter a field that does not require any college at all? It is a waste of
effort for them because they will not be paid college-level wages, but
rather will be offered high-school level wages. Requiring college level
education will advance wages and attract more people.

I think that putting the histotech courses into medical technology programs,
as is done in other countries, would cause some med tech graduates to enter
histotechnology. I base this on my experience as a med tech instructor in
Saudi Arabia where histotechnology is part of the med tech curriculum and
all med techs do a rotation in all lab departments before choosing a
"specialization." There, some med tech chose histotechnology because they
were put off by running all the automation in the clinical labs (where they
were just feeding tubes to machine all day) and enjoyed the hands-on work
and variety of the anatomic pathology lab.

While in Saudi Arabia I also worked with many histotechs from many other
countries, all of which were med techs with a histotechnology
specialization. To a person they were much more knowledgeable than any of
the US techs I hired (and that includes me!). They did not try to avoid the
routine aspects of the job, as is often cited as a reason not to require
degrees, and were able to adapt to all new technologies very quickly.

As to increased costs, I believe that education and training pays for itself
in added effectiveness, efficiency and potential.

In summary, requirements for more education can only help and will never
hinder our profession.

Tim Morken, BA, EMT(MSA), HTL(ASCP)
Infectious Disease Pathology Activity
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30333

PH: 404-639-3964
FAX: 404-639-3043


-----Original Message-----
From: Mary Bryhan []
Sent: Thursday, September 07, 2000 8:52 PM
To: Histonet;
Subject: Board of registry

Today our lab operations manager showed me a page that had been printed off
the NSH website.  This page reported that beginning in 2004, the BOR will
not permit applicants with only a High School diploma to take the HT exam.
There will be requirements similar to those currently required for the HTL

At the age of 14 I took a 3 week summer class for fun, which previewed three
health careers, one each week.  As you can guess, I became interested in
histology.  Two years later when I was 16, I began my 2 year ASCP accredited
HT training program.  Because of staffing shortages, I received my received
my 1st job offer in histology before I even graduated.  I took my boards as
soon as I was eligible, back when the board only offered the exam twice per
year.  I passed on the first try and got a pay increase of a quarter, which
put my wage at $4.25 / hour.

During the last 21 years I have worked with a wide variety of people who
call themselves  histo techs.  I must say that the majority of techs I have
worked with that were good at the meat and potatoes of regular histology
techniques were high school graduates.

There is a current staffing shortage in histology; does it make sense to
further it by adding these restrictions?  Also, what will the added costs be
to an already over burdened medical system as we have in the US?

Mary Bryhan
Petoskey,  Michigan

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