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Anatomical Pathology Technician Profile

Introduction

This Section of the site details information that you might find useful if you are looking to secure employment or require further details regarding working as an Anatomical Pathology Technician. This page details the following Information:-

  • Finding Suitable Work as an Anatomical Pathology Technician
  • Working Duties Expected
  • Hours and Environment
  • Working Skills Required
  • Training Requirements
  • Salary Expectations
  • Trade Information
  • Other useful Anatomical Pathology Technician Work Information


Finding Suitable Work

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Working Duties Expected

Anatomical pathology technicians help pathologists to conduct post-mortem examinations, which are undertaken to find out the causes of a person's death.

Duties include:

• removing and weighing internal organs
• taking and recording samples for analysis
• reconstructing the body for viewing
• conducting viewings in the mortuary quiet room
• ensuring the mortuary is safe and hygienic
• making accurate identification records
• dealing with enquiries and providing information
• helping to train other healthcare staff
• clerical and administrative work.

Technicians usually work 37 to 40 hours a week, usually with some shifts and weekend work. Occasional overtime is required. They work indoors in a mortuary - usually plain, single-storey buildings with few windows, or in the basement.

An anatomical pathology technician needs to be:

• tactful and sensitive
• a confident communicator
• fit, healthy and strong
• practical, with a knowledge of science, anatomy and physiology
• able to cope with unpleasant sights and smells.

There are about 1,000 anatomical pathology technicians in the UK. Employers include health authorities, hospital trusts and local authority mortuaries.

Most trainees start straight from school. Some employers prefer applicants with knowledge of science, and GCSEs may be helpful. Many hospitals and health authorities prefer to appoint technicians aged 20 years or over. Training is on the job with study for Royal Institute of Public Health (RIPH) awards.

What does the role encounter?

Anatomical pathology technicians carry out a range of tasks related to mortuary service work.

They help the pathologist to conduct post-mortem examinations, which are undertaken to find out the causes of a person's death. Their duties include practical involvement in removing internal organs, taking and recording samples for analysis, and weighing the major organs. They perform special techniques as required and reconstruct the body. It is also the technician’s responsibility to ensure that after the examination, the person's body is well presented - so that it can be viewed by relatives, and for health and safety reasons.

Technicians are responsible for the everyday running and maintenance of the mortuary service and post-mortem room. This includes receiving the bodies of people who may have died suddenly. They keep accurate identification records and deal with enquiries from anyone needing information about the deceased person, including the police, HM Coroner officers and relatives.

The work involves a lot of involvement with bereaved relatives, including conducting viewings in the mortuary quiet room and providing information for documents such as death certificates and cremation forms.

It is part of a technician’s job to make sure the mortuary is safe and hygienic at all times. They wash down floors with disinfectant and sterilise and maintain tools and equipment. They must be aware of potential health hazards and take all necessary precautions, especially when dealing with deaths from infectious diseases such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS.

Technicians are likely to participate in training other healthcare staff such as doctors, nurses, paramedics and porters who need to be aware of mortuary procedures and practices.

There is also a great deal of clerical and administrative work. Technicians deal with legal forms and certificates, for example to authorise the removal and cremation of a body. They also help medical staff to complete paperwork such as death certificates. Technicians may spend a lot of time working on a computer.

What type of hours will I have to work?

Technicians usually work 37 to 40 hours a week, usually with some shifts and weekend work. Occasional overtime is required.

They work indoors in a mortuary - usually plain, single-storey buildings with few windows. Hospital mortuaries may be in the basement.

For post-mortem work, technicians wear full safety clothing, which includes disposable gloves, a visor, gowns and boots. For examinations of people who have died from an infectious disease, the clothing may also include respirators.

The work may involve standing up for long periods.

Technicians may have to deal with unpleasant sights and smells as some corpses may have begun to decompose before being found or death may have resulted from violence, fire or accidents.

What level of salary and benefits are there?

These figures are purely for guidance only. Salaries may vary for the area the job is situated in, age, experience along with a host of other factors:

• Trainees normally start at around £10,000 a year.
• Experienced technicians can earn between £12,000 and £16,000.
• Technicians who gain the Diploma in Anatomical Pathology Technology can earn up to £20,700.

Anatomical pathology technicians may also receive extra payments for being on call. Those working in or around London may also receive an additional cost of living allowance.

What type of skills will I need?

You will need to have some or all of the following type of skills to carry out this job:

• tact and sensitivity for working with bereaved relatives
• good verbal communication skills and a good telephone manner
• to be fit, healthy and strong
• knowledge of science, anatomy and physiology
• good practical manual skills
• to be health and safety-conscious
• a mature and responsible outlook
• good clerical and administrative skills
• to be conscientious about record-keeping
• to be able to work as part of a small team
• to be able to deal with unpleasant sights and smells in a professional and sensitive manner
• awareness of and respect for different religious beliefs about death.

What type of training will I receive?

Trainee technicians begin by observing mortuary work and post-mortem examinations for a short period. After this, they work under the supervision of pathologists and experienced technicians who provide training in practical aspects of the job. They then start to assist at the examination itself.

Trainee technicians undertake a limited number of tasks and always work under the supervision of an experienced and qualified member of the mortuary staff.

They also attend training sessions in manual handling, infection control, health and safety and fire-awareness.

After two years of learning on the job, during which they perform a series of practical assessments, they attend a Royal Institute of Public Health (RIPH) approved training course. The course is usually on a half-day a week basis, but some areas offer two-week residential courses. Areas covered include:

• anatomy and physiology
• post-mortem examination techniques
• health and safety
• medical-legal legislation.

At the end of the course they take written and oral exams for the RIPH Certificate in Anatomical Pathology Technology. If they pass they can apply to be Associate Members of the Royal Institute. Trainees who successfully gain the RIPH Certificate can attend a further course leading to the Diploma in Anatomical Pathology Technology. The diploma course gives technicians the knowledge to perform more complex work such as forensic or high risk examinations. Successful candidates can apply for membership of the RIPH.

Career Progression:

There are established career structures for anatomical pathology technicians, but they vary from area to area. In some areas, a Diploma in Anatomical Pathology Technology is needed for promotion to grade 3 or 4. Senior anatomical pathology technicians are responsible for managing mortuaries and training other technicians.

Are there similar types of job or related industries?

Yes, this list is not exhaustive but see the following categories:

Crematorium Technician/Cemetery Worker
Crime Scene Examiner
Funeral Director
Hospital Porter
Measurement and Control Technician
Medical Physicist
Operating Department Practitioner.

Where can I find further information?

Royal Institute of Public Health (RIPH), 28 Portland Place, London W1B 1DE. 020 7580 2731. Website: www.riph.org.uk

Association of Anatomical Pathology Technologists (UK), 12 Coldbath Square, London EC1R 5HL. 020 7278 2151. Website: www.aaptuk.org

NHS Careers, PO Box 376, Bristol BS99 3EY. 0845 60 60 655. Website: www.nhscareers.nhs.uk

What trade magazines are available for this industry? 

A careers information pack from the RIPH.

Other Useful Anatomical Pathology Technician Work Information

We have a section available at this site on Anatomical Pathology Technician job interview tips that you may find of interest should you wish to brush up your skills in this area and we also have number of career articles that may also be of use to you from within our guides and documents section.

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Details of other Anatomical Pathology Technician Jobs can also be found in other UK wide areas including:-
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