Pathology assistants are highly trained and qualified to perform all the functions of a pathologist except for diagnosing. They are crucial to the process leading up to a diagnosis, but, much like physicians' assistants, they are not qualified to provide a diagnosis. Working under the direction and supervision of a pathologist, they are tasked with a broad range of clinical services. Pathology assistants are responsible for the preparation, gross description, and dissection of anatomic pathology specimens from a surgery or autopsy. They prepare tissue for various pathological tests, and their duties extend to the preparation and performance of postmortem examinations. They also arrange and record tissue samples for analysis, keep equipment maintained and sterilized, and run complicated pathology tests.
Pathology assistants may be employed by a variety of institutions, such as hospitals, forensic laboratories, healthcare systems, private pathological laboratories, and medical schools. Some are even self-employed business owners who work for clients under a contract. Their work is typically indoors during standard daytime office hours. They work directly under a pathologist and report to them frequently. They are expected to have exceptional organizational skills, a very close eye for detail, and an efficient work ethic. They must also have a very good knowledge of the latest technologies and keep regularly apprised of advancements, since many pathology tests use very complicated systems. They are required to have completed a bachelor's degree in biology or a related field and must have taken classes in pathology, anatomy, microbiology, and biochemistry. They are also required to have a state-issued license, obtained by passing a standardized exam.
Pathology Assistant Tasks
Maintain and clean laboratory and equipment.
Conduct analyses and use equipment to dissect, test, examine or characterize specimens.
Interpret, document and communicate results from specimen analysis.
Describe, document and store specimens and confer with experts for complex procedures.