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Working as a Pathologist Assistant
Demand for certified pathologists’ assistants is high, and the employer demand exceeds the supply of pathologists’ assistants produced at present. Pathologists’ Assistants may work in academic medical centers, community hospitals, private laboratories, coroners’ and medical examiners’ offices, and other locations in which their services are needed.
Pathologists’ Assistants are qualified by academic and practical training to provide a range of support services under the direction and supervision of a pathologist. Among these duties is the preparation, gross description and dissection of human tissue surgical specimens including obtaining clinical history, describing gross anatomic features, dissecting surgical specimens, preparing tissues for histologic processing, and photographing all pertinent gross specimens and microscopic slides. Pathologists’ Assistants also prepare human postmortem examinations which involves conferring with the attending pathologists to identify any special techniques and procedures to be utilized in the completion of the postmortem examination; performing postmortem examinations; selecting, preparing and submitting appropriate gross tissue sections; performing special procedures such as coronary artery perfusion, central nervous system perfusion, enucleation, inner ear bone dissection, spinal cord removal, etc.; and organizing information pertinent to the preparation of the preliminary summarization of the clinical history. Other duties typically include freezing tissue removed at surgery in preparation for intra-operative examination by a pathologist and performing administrative, budgetary, supervisory and teaching duties.
Pathologists’ Assistant Accreditation and Certification
Pathologists’ assistant is a recognized specialty accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS), which has established the didactic and clinical experiences necessary for effective education of pathologists’ assistants. The IU School of Medicine Program is fully accredited by NAACLS.
Upon completion of an accredited pathologists’ assistant program, graduates are eligible to sit for the pathologists’ assistant certification examination offered by the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP). Passing the certification examination is not a requirement for MS degree completion, but the credential is required by most employers in the United States.
The American Association of Pathologists’ Assistants (AAPA) is the professional organization for pathologists’ assistants in the United States. The AAPA is the only national organization that unites pathologists’ assistants and provides guidelines for their appropriate practice. More about the responsibilities and career opportunities of pathologists’ assistants is available on the AAPA website.