Fixation on Histology

Demonstrating the Fun of Histotechnology

Histology Student I have been working in histology for over a decade, in various types of labs and settings. No matter where I worked though, I have heard the same thing from the technicians and technologists that I worked with, “I didn’t know what histology was, I just kind of fell into it.” So, when I was seeking a new challenge and saw the posting for an instructor, I knew I wanted to teach and have now been an instructor for over three years.

Starting out, I wanted to teach both the fundamentals of the job and the fun of the lab.  Not everyone that comes through the door is green when it comes to laboratories. I have had my fair share of lab aides that wanted to further their career, even MLTs that want to make the jump to the anatomical side. For the most part though, most students haven’t ever stepped foot in the lab…they were “falling into the profession.” No matter what experience a student has the question I’ve been trying to answer- one student at a time- is “how do I make this make sense, and how do I keep them going,” so they don’t “fall out.”  

Originally, I intended to focus on specific lessons I have used in the classroom. However, more recently I have noticed a need to change my approach.  This is because my department has been receiving more requests from labs across the state desperately looking for qualified techs. It seems we can’t graduate students fast enough to fill the open positions. So now my quest is to translate my lessons to public consumption and to entice those that don’t know histology to want to enter the profession.  I believe this is a key part to how we will fill the growing number of empty benches.

I currently do outreach at local high schools and other public forums, demonstrating the real lab work that we do – after all it is the hands-on fun that grabs them.  But the hands-on demonstrations are constrained by the weight and size of the instruments we use, so I have found that staining is one of the best options. At our last outreach we did a quick polychrome stain looking at the squamous cells of the cheek under the microscope. Not quite as fun as embedding or cutting, but functional and gets the point across. I love seeing young students finally getting the microscope focused and seeing the microscopic world come to life.

For histotechnology to move forward into the future, we must reach out to our younger generation and others wanting to know the importance of what we do.  My charge to you is to let everyone you meet know about histotechnology so that we fill our histology schools with future histotechnicians and histotechnologists. In turn, they will backfill our current vacancies and help our already over-worked colleagues. The future are the students entering our histology schools and eventually, they will be the ones to carry the torch when we leave.

Written by Amber Kumpfmiller, HT(ASCP)

1 comment



2 days ago

Amber, thanks! I'm glad you are in a position to train people.

Our big problem is that there are so few ways to train people, even if they learn about the field. Now we do have online courses, but they still need a lab to work in to get the practical experience.

About all I can tell people is to take the required college courses and then try to find a lab that will take them in as a lab assistant in a job that will lead to a histology job. It is difficult for people to make the connection with the labs in any given area (try to find out about any histology lab in any city - most institutions make finding any contact in the lab very difficult - mostly limited to medical customers). 

NSH and State Societies might be able to help by making a clearinghouse of labs in every area that people can contact.