Cytotechnologists are lab professionals who study the movements and functions of cells. Since they are working with molecular level cellular, the necessary item in the lab is a microscope. Their duties include examining healthy cells and checking whether there’s any indication of diseases or abnormal cell growth. This is extremely helpful in detecting premalignant cancer tumours, infectious agents or inflammatory processes. Not only do they aid in identifying the symptoms, cytotechnologists also help patients recover from the illness.
What are cytotechnologists?
Cytotechnologists play a crucial role in cancer patient’s treatment programs. With their help, doctors and physicians are able to track the progress of benign or malignant cells. They detect dangerous diseases, hormonal abnormalities and many other pathological conditions by staining, mounting and studying the cells.
Thanks to the advancement of technology, cytotechnology can detect cancer and bacterial infections at a much earlier stage, saving many more patients. Cytotechnology techniques are especially useful in determining if the cells carry precancerous disease. The field is best known for Pap tests, evaluating cells from the cervix.
Cytotechnologists will be gathering information from patients’ cell samples and pinpoint the subtle changes. Cytotechnologists rarely work alone; they often operate together with a pathologist.
Cytotechnologist scope of practice
Cytotechnologists are often employed at either a hospital or laboratories. Though the workload might vary at each workspace, their routine is basically similar. Another work environment cytotechnologist might be in is universities, where they will conduct research and pass on knowledge to the aspiring cytotechnologists.
Primarily, in a day, a cytologist’s duties include:
- Maintain and adjust the lab equipment, such as microscopes up to the medical standards
- Attend education programs and training sessions to address and improve laboratory conditions
- Document specimens accurately, verifying patients’ and specimens’ info
- Analyse cell samples, detect any cell defects or abnormalities in cell’s colour, shape or size of cellular components
- Using microscopes, examine the specimens and their quality
- Manage and supervise laboratory operations, making sure all policies are adhered to, preparations or laboratory safety is upheld
- Prepare and analyse samples, including the Papanicolaou (PAP) smear body fluids and fine needle aspirations (FNAs)
- Assist in the completion of pathology reports with patient’s clinical data or microscopic findings
- Submit slides of abnormal cell structures for further examination
- Perform karyotyping or organizing of chromosomes according to standardized ideograms.
Becoming a cytotechnologist isn’t going to be long and enduring like other doctors’ professions. Education for aspiring cytotechnologists often starts out by earning an associate or bachelor’s degree in either cytotechnology or a related field. For students who have completed an undergraduate degree, a further cytotechnology program completion will be required.
Taking the cytotechnology program that has been encompassed in a bachelor’s curriculum will last for about 2 years, and studying for a cytotechnology certificate takes one to two years, depending on the course you’ve enlisted. You’ll be taught about the basics of cells, and how to identify their variants, using just a microscope and extensive practicum experiences.
Qualities of a cytotechnologist
To be a great cytotechnologist, not only will you need to have a strong foundation in biology, chemistry and math, but you will also have to be very meticulous and patient. Having qualities such as detail-oriented is quite important to a cytotechnologist, since you’ll be dealing with many slides of cells, and the abnormalities could be microscopic.
Additionally, working as a cytotechnologist, being tech savvy is also very helpful. You’ll need to have excellent skills of using new pieces of equipment, and fast to adapt, for cytotechnology is highly reliant on computers and microscopes and they are always evolving. Working long hours will also require a cytotechnologist to have a lot of stamina, they will spend most of their time in the lab, either sitting or standing in order to complete the necessary inspection.
Salary Range and Outlook
Depending on the location you chose to practice, your abilities and experience, the salary can be higher or lower. Cytotechnologists earn an average salary of $61,235 per year while those in supervisory positions earn an average of $71,261 per year. On average, a position of cytotechnologist is expected to grow 13% per year, which means an endless possibility for you to apply.
Since many diseases, viruses and bacteria are only identifiable under a microscope, cytotechnologists must be trained in collecting samples, preparing slides and evaluating cells in order to write a pathology report with pathologists and pathologists’ assistants. With their skill and expertise, they can help in giving out a quick and accurate diagnosis, saving many lives.