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Histotech: Cuts and Stains Patient Specimens, Performs Special Stains as Requested by Physicians

Becky Waters is a histotech at North Memorial Medical Center. She’s responsible for cutting and staining patient specimens, accessioning those specimens, performing special stains and immunohistochemistry (IHC) as requested by doctors, and maintaining lab equipment.

Becky took a non-traditional path to her career. After high school, she got married and became a mom. But following a divorce, she realized that she wanted a career—not just a job.  “I first considered going to cosmetology school, but [due to the economy I chose not to enter] the service industry.” She began investigating a career in healthcare and found herself at Argosy University, Twin Cities. “After talking with the entrance counselor, I realized that the histotechnology program would be a good fit for me.”

Today, Becky says that she thoroughly enjoys her job. “There is something new every day. Even though the things I do help a doctor give a possibly difficult diagnosis to a patient, it is rewarding to be a part of the process and know my job is important.”

She’s excited to know that she can take care of her children independently—but admits that the challenge of returning to school in her late 30s was tough. “Going to school, taking care of four kids, and working had its difficult moments.  But doing well and showing my kids that you can succeed no matter your age has been given me a tremendous amount of satisfaction.”

Becky, who in 2014 earned an Associate of Applied Science in Histotechnology from Argosy University, Twin Cities, says that her education prepared her for a career. “Once I was actually in the lab at school—that's where everything came to life.  Developing the muscle memory and technique for what I do was very important.  You cannot do my job without this training.  My teachers were so knowledgeable and [cultivated] my success all the way along.  They all took a personal interest in me, which was crucial to my success.”

She adds that it is important to keep learning, even after school is completed.  “You have to learn the nuances once you get there, so to have the physical competency already under my belt made me feel confident going into my job.” This love of learning began with her education and the supportive environment that allowed her to experience real world situations while still in the classroom.

“[My instructors] were knowledgeable about the subjects pertaining to our study.  They were advocates for my success.  And they really cared about me as a person.  They were also open to suggestions in helping make the program more like what you experience in the real world.”

Becky recommends that current students listen to their instructors and soak up their knowledge. “Observe, watch, take it all in.  Ask questions.” And she advises that this style of learning should continue within the workplace. “Pay attention to different styles of workmanship.  Be available to help in any way.”

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