A histology technician processes surgical, autopsy, or research tissue specimens for microscopic examination. Although most histology technicians work in human health care facilities, many are employed in veterinary, industrial, or research laboratories.
Cancer can often be detected in the arrangement of cells in a tissue sample. Once a sample tissue is taken from the patient, it is sent to the histotechnician (HT), who prepares the tiny sections of body tissues for microscopic examination by a pathologist. Working closely with the pathologist, the histologic technician processes tissue biopsies removed during surgery.
The tissue is cut into very thin slices, mounted on slides and stained with special dyes to make the cell details visible under the microscope. By examining the section of tissue, the pathologist and the surgeon can learn if disease is present, or if it has spread, and decide the best course of treatment for the patient.
Histotechnicians and histotechnologists must work quickly, as they are frequently under pressure to deliver results while the patient is in surgery. They work with fragile, delicate instruments as well as knives, chemicals and glass slides. He or she must value precision and be comfortable working with equipment that requires careful monitoring.