Pathologist's Assistant

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Pathologist's Assistant


Do amoeba and organisms excite your brain? Are you intrigued instead of disgusted about studying the human body during an autopsy? If so, have you ever considered a career as a pathologist's assistant? Pathologist's assistants perform and interpret diagnostic tests in order to assist pathologists to diagnose, monitor and treat diseases.

Pathologist's assistants generally work in surgical pathology or autopsy pathology. In the former, they assist in the preparation and performance of surgical specimen dissection. They will obtain a patient's pertinent clinical information in order to describe gross anatomic features, dissect surgical specimens, and prepare tissues for histologic processing. They obtain and submit biological specimens, such as blood and tissue for additional analytic procedures (immunostaining, flow cytometry, image anaylsis, bacterial and viral cultures, toxicology, etc.) and assisting in photographing gross and microscopic specimens.

Those who work as autopsy pathologist's assistants assist in the performance of post-mortem examinations. They must obtain the proper legal authorization and the patient's medical history chart before beginning. They must coordinate special requests for specimens and assist the pathologist in a post-mortem examination. They will also take photographs and record information to help write the autopsy report.

Some assistants also performing administrative duties such as filing reports and data, assuring the completion of specimen coding and billing. They may also be in charge of equipment maintenance and cleanliness. Pathologist's assistants also may teach surgical dissection and autopsy techniques to undergraduate and graduate students.

Pathologists' assistants contribute to the overall efficiency of the laboratory or pathology practice in a cost effective manner by performing a variety of tasks, consisting primarily of gross examination of surgical pathology, specimens and performance of autopsies. Many pathologist's assistants are former histotechnologists, medical technologists, cytotechnologists, and autopsy technicians.
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Southern California Health Institute
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  Average Earnings  
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  Interests and Skills  
Pathologist's assistants are analytical, innovative thinkers with excellent problem solving skills. They have a natural affinity and aptitude for mathematics and science and can often visualize complex processes. They possess excellent communication skills, both written and oral, and have the ability to work well in teams and alone. They also possess the ability to pay close attention to details when conducting research, while working with special instruments.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Prepare for autopsies by obtaining patients' medical records and arranging for radiographic examinations
  • Assist with or perform autopsies and surgical specimen examinations under pathologists' supervision
  • Dissect, examine, weigh and photograph organs and specimens, collect tissue specimens for chemical analysis and record findings
  • Prepare bodies for release to funeral homes following completion of autopsies
  • Clean and maintain autopsy, surgical and other equipment
  • May train junior resident pathologists and train and supervise morgue attendants
  • Pathologist's assistants spend a lot of time peering through a microscope. Otherwise, they assist pathologists in the dissection of specific tissues or in the morgue, helping with autopsies. Many are exposed to disagreeable odors and infectious diseases, therefore they must take the proper safety precautions necessary to protect their health.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Pathologist's assistants are employed by hospitals, research and development laboratories, morgues, funeral homes and other related industries. They can also be found researching and teaching in the education field or working in all levels of the government.

  Long Term Career Potential  
What does the future hold for pathologist's assistants? Those with experience may gain higher levels of responsibility and begin performing more advanced autopsy and dissection procedures. With further education, they can also advance to become pathologists, quality control technicians, senior supervisors or part of hospital management. Some pathologist's assistants that take additional training can teach autopsy and dissection in technical institutes. Others may work as technical medical writers.

  Educational Paths  
The requirements for becoming a pathologist's assistant is a Bachelor of Science degree in biology or nursing. There are related study routes to take. Many assistants these days also have master's degrees. After graduation, pathologists' assistants must write a fellowship exam in order to become certified coupled with some internship or on-the-job training.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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Southern California Health Institute
Since 1996, Southern California Health Institute has been dedicated and committed to helping students achieve their dreams by providing an exceptional education that enables them to become skilled and successful manual therapists.
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  • Physical Therapy Aide/Sports Rehab Program

Platt College
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