Full Circle: The Dream Job

By: Anastasia Pinkston

Graduating from high school in 1993, I just knew I wanted to be a pediatrician, so I enrolled in college majoring in biology with a chemistry minor. The summer of my senior year, I volunteered at Dr. Farris Blount’s family practice office. OMG….This was the moment I had been waiting on all my life. After observing Dr. Blount’s patience with each sick patient, allowing them to cough on him, among other things, I realized this was no longer the profession I dreamed of. Direct patient care was not for me, maybe because I have OCD.

Graduating from college in 1997, with a Bachelor’s of Science degree, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. One of my best friends told me that my high school alma mater had chemistry and biology teaching positions open. Job rejection after job rejection, I now had a decision to make. Stay at Compaq Computers, pushing boxes down an assembly line or go teach. Begrudgingly, I became a high school chemistry teacher. Teaching was the last profession on my list of possible careers. Five months into my teaching career, I received a marriage proposal. I said yes, not thinking of how that would affect the profession I had grown to love.

After eight years of being a stay at home military wife of two small kids and five permanent change of station (pcs) moves, I wanted to go back to work. However, teaching was not an option, being that my husband received new Naval orders every 18 to 24 months. Trying to figure out my next move, I remembered my college professor talking about Clinical Laboratory Scientists (CLS). “Patient care without direct patient care, I think I can do this.” The next day I went to the local hospital that had a CLS program and spoke with the program’s director. She asked me about myself and why I wanted to be a CLS. As we walked to the back of the hospital’s lab, she suggested that I become a Histotechnologist instead. “Working in a Monday-Friday lab instead of a 24 hour one may be better for you, since your kids are so young,” she said.

“Histotechnologist? What is a Histotechnologist”, I asked? At that moment, we were standing in front of this door with a tiny window. She then said, “look inside, that’s a Histology Lab.” She went on to tell me about the contributions and impact a Histology Lab has on patient care. The excitement I felt back in 1993 was back. In 2007, I graduated from Florida Community College in Jacksonville, FL (Florida State College at Jacksonville) with my Associates in Science in Histologic Technology. I worked in the Jacksonville area as a Histotechnician (HT), until November of 2009, when we received Naval pcs orders to Hampton Roads, Virginia.

December of 2009, I began working at Naval Hospital Portsmouth as a HT. Having some Immunohistochemistry (IHC) experience, I began working in the IHC area. In March of 2010, our supervisor asked if anyone wanted to train as a diener. For the next 6 weeks I studied under Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Gunther at Tidewater District, Office of Chief Medical Examiner, in Norfolk, VA. The excitement of learning how to do autopsies was overwhelming. I would talk about the autopsies we performed every night at dinner. My husband politely asked me to stop, so I started calling my sister telling her all the gruesome details of my day. When I returned to Naval Hospital Portsmouth I began assisting, Forensic Pathologist, Dr. Mark Shelly. We had some fun times together. Later that year, due to a Pathologist shortage, Histotechs were asked to gross small biopsies. Having a B.S. degree, I was asked to train. Under the watchful hand of Dr. Clare E. Feigl, I was assessed and given a Letter of Competency. December of 2011, my government term position ended and again we received another set of Naval pcs orders.

2012, we now live in Tallahassee, FL, a city with only two hospitals, Capital Regional Medical Center and Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. In Histo school I remember our instructor saying two things, “Histo is small, so some cities, you may have to wait until someone dies or retires before you can get a histology job and your reputation is everything.” Being in Tallahassee, I was waiting on the die or retire part. As I searched for work, without any success, I was told that I may qualify for unemployment. Surprise, I did, I qualified. Now having an unexpected income, my husband suggested that I use the money to enrolled in graduate school. In 2013, I received my Master’s in Education.

June of 2013, my husband gets unaccompanied orders to Guam, so the boys and I go home to Texas. While there I search for Histo jobs and ran across an adjunct Histo teaching job at the local community college. I applied, but was told that I needed to be an HTL to get the position. In August of 2013, I received my HTL, but now they needed a full-time instructor with teaching experience in Histology Techniques. When they called and asked if I was available for adjunct teaching, I had already moved to the DMV area.

After one teaching job, two certifications, three degrees, seven Histo jobs and nine military pcs moves that exposed me to every aspect of Anatomic Pathology, I finally received my big break. I was offered a position as a Histology Education Program Coordinator, with duties that included starting a Histotechnician certification program. I would be contributing to patient care, without direct patient care and teaching Histotechnology. This job is every aspect of my professional experiences wrapped into one. My professional career has really come “Full Circle.”

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