By: Heidi Maxwell
Though based in the United States, NSH is an international organization with many members in countries around the world, including our neighbors to the north, Canada. In this blog post, Canadian member, Heidi Maxwell, shares her path as an MLT (Medical Laboratory Technologist).
In Canada, Histology is a specialization within the larger field of medical laboratory science, so Canadian histologists earn their MLT (Medical Laboratory Technologist) certification. To qualify for the exam, you must go through an accredited College or University program. The College program is three years with the last year as a placement in a hospital that has all five laboratory disciplines (Histology, Microbiology, Transfusion Medicine, Biochemistry and Hematology). The University program streams into the College program and is in conjunction with a BSC MLT. The last (fourth year) of the University Program is the required hospital placement in the five disciplines.
At the end of the hospital placement, candidates are eligible to write the CSMLS - MLT exam in June. After which the candidate receives their MLT (General). Jobs are quite prevalent now as we have a shortage of MLT’s so most candidates can work in whichever field they wish to work in.
I have been a histotechnologist since 1984. I was offered a summer job in histology before I wrote my exams in 1983 and I never looked back, so histology really chose me. After summer ended, I was waiting for them to offer me a full-time job and it didn’t happen, so I went on a trip to Switzerland to connect with family. When I came back, I started working in a Dynacare lab (core lab) for about 2 months before I was asked to come back to my first job in London, Ontario. I worked there for 26 years through two amalgamations and two moves. In 1996 when we did our first amalgamation, I pressed our manager to increase our repertoire and allow us to gross. From 1996 to 2007, I worked as a rotating Grossing Technologist at London Health Sciences.
Histology laboratories are generally dedicated Histology laboratories especially in the bigger cities. 13 years ago my husband and I moved from London, Ontario to his home in Bruce County (southwestern Ontario) and I got a Histology/core lab job at the Grey Bruce Health Services, Owen Sound Hospital which had the only Histology lab in the area. I work in a smaller Regional laboratory so not all of our Histology staff is dedicated and must rotate into the core lab to cover off-shifts and weekends. However, in my role as MLT (Histologist)/ Pathologist Assistant I am dedicated to Histology and not required to rotate into the core lab.
My present duties as a Histotechnologist/PA ensure that the two PA’s that we have are backed up for Grossing and Autopsy service and I still rotate as a full Histotechnologist through Special Stains, Embedding, Frozen Sectioning, IHC and surgical and Autopsy sectioning and staining. I am also Lab Safety Officer for the whole lab - covering Microbiology, Histology, Core Lab - Chemistry , Hematology and Blood Bank as well as Cytology and Phlebotomy and I serve on the corporate Safety Committee. I have been involved with Laboratory Safety since 1987.
Continuing education for Canadian MLTs is determined by the province they work in. I try to vary my continuing education to cover my MLT license, but I try to specialize in Histology and Safety mainly as these are the areas that I am most active in. In Ontario, we are required to have 30 hours of professional development every year and we have to have a variety of activities.