What is the profession of Cytotechnology?
Cytotechnology is a medical laboratory specialty which is based on the morphologic analysis of cells that have been shed, scraped or aspirated from body tissues. A cytotechnologist is a highly skilled laboratory professional. These specialists prepare samples obtained from various body areas for examination by using staining techniques which make the specimen more visible. Cytotechnologists are trained to recognize minute abnormalities in the color, size, and shape of the cell structures.
Cytotechnologist are responsible for the first microscopic evaluation of the cytologic material, determining the presence or absence of abnormal or malignant cells and providing a preliminary diagnosis in cases that warrant further evaluation by a pathologist. As a result of cytologic findings, physicians are often able to diagnose and treat cancer before symptoms occur or before it can be detected by other methods.
Cytotechnology originated as a method of detecting malignant and premalignant lesions in the female genital tract (the Pap Smear). This discipline has since expanded to include cancer diagnosis in all body areas. With the advent of fine needle aspiration cytology, virtually every organ in the body is accessible to cytologic diagnosis.
Cytotechnologists must know basic human anatomy, physiology and pathology, and have an in depth knowledge of cell morphology in order to interpret varied cytology specimens accurately. In addition, cytotechnologists must master various specialized techniques for collecting, preparing and staining many types of cell samples.
Cytotechnologists play an integral part in the total health care of patients. They must at all times, be aware that each specimen represents a patient and that accuracy of the diagnostic report is essential.
What is the profession of Histotechnology?
Histotechnology is another medical laboratory specialty that is important in the detection, diagnosis and treatment of diseases. The histotechnologist uses scientific knowledge and technical skill to prepare human and animal tissues for microscopic examination by a pathologist. They work quickly with precision and accuracy, often while a surgical team awaits a diagnosis, to perform the necessary and complex procedures to process, embed and then cut tissue sections. These thin sections are mounted on slides and stained for microscopic evaluation by pathologists. Histotechnologists also help select, implement and evaluate new procedures and instruments in the laboratory and performance maintenance on the equipment.
What are the educational requirements?
Preparation for a career in cytotechnology & histotechnology is accomplished by successfully completing an accredited educational program. Students are admitted to the Master of Cytopathology Practice program after they have completed three years of specified academic work at an accredited college or university. The professional program at UTHSC is two years in length and leads to a Master’s Degree entitled the Master of Cytopathology Practice (MCP).
What is a Master of Cytopathology Practice (MCP) degree?
A Master of Cytopathology Practice Degree adds a new dimension to a standardized curriculum. This degree enables students who are studying biology to learn two distinct disciplines and become a highly skilled and cross trained individual who will have enhanced employment opportunities. Graduates of the program will be able to perform, interpret and correlate ancillary testing for proper triage of patients. They will be able to meet the current demands of the profession and will be prepared to engage future technology as it becomes standard in the anatomic pathology laboratory. Graduates of the program will also have the necessary skills in quality assessment to direct quality improvement activities and assume positions of leadership in management, research and education as well as guide the anatomic pathology laboratory into the next century of diagnostic testing.
An individual considering a career in cytotechnology & histotechnology should be able to perform work that requires precision and sound judgment. Manual dexterity, dependability, and good color vision are also important characteristics. Since the expertise of the cytotechnologists is relied upon in assuring high quality patient care, individuals who want to become cytotechnologists & histotechnologists should have a high degree of integrity and be willing to assume a great deal of responsibility.
The job market changes rapidly in small professions such as cytotechnology & histotechnology and varies depending on location. Currently there is a shortage of cytotechnologists which may vary from 5%-30% depending on location.
Today, there are more jobs for cytotechnologists than educated people to fill those jobs. Future long-term employment looks bright. The need is great throughout the country. Anatomic laboratory professionals have an unlimited choice of practice settings. Hospitals, for-profit laboratories, clinics, public health facilities and industry currently have positions available for qualified cytotechnologists & histotechnologistss.
Licensure and Certification
Upon successful completion of an educational program approved by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), an individual is eligible to take the certification examinations for both cytotechnology and molecular pathology given by the Board of Registry of the American Society of Clinical Pathologists. An additional Specialist in Cytotechnology certification is available for persons with advanced degrees and/or experience.
Upon successful completion of an educational program approved by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science (NAACLS), an individual is eligible to take the certification examination in histotechnology given by the Board of Registry of the American Society of Clinical Pathologists.
Tennessee state license is required to practice cytotechnology in the State of Tennessee. In order to obtain a Tennessee state license, you must provide evidence that you have passed the ASCP Board of Registry examination in cytotechnology. Histotechnologists are not currently required to obtain a Tennessee state license. To obtain more information or an application for state licensure, contact:
Tennessee State Department of Health
Medical Laboratory Board
227 French Landing, Suite 300
Nashville, TN 37243
Phone: 1.800.778.4123 or 1.615.532.3202
Department of Cytotechnology
930 Madison - Suite 664
Memphis, Tennessee 38163