Work/Life Balance in Histology

Work/life balance. In today’s busy world it is a phrase we hear more and more. How do we balance our work commitments with our personal life in this age of interconnectivity? In histology, the problem of work/life balance arises when we are increasingly asked to do more and more to keep up with the sheer volume of work there is in a busy lab. This is a common woe we hear from our histology community on Facebook, where the question of blocks per hour, or “How long should it take me to embed and cut x number of blocks?” frequently rises to the top of the recent posts.

This issue of workload has also come up in our interviews with members over the past few years, since launching our podcast series. One series in particular, Women in Histology, keeps coming back to the struggles women face as they try and balance the increasing demands of a busy lab with personal goals, such as raising a family.

In last year’s episode, dedicated to work/life balance, NSH members Kim Simmons and Kathy Dwyer, share their tips for juggling volunteer work, family, and a career, a feat they have both been extremely successful in.

Here are some of their tips for keeping it together:


Even when we are in supervisory roles where delegation is a natural part of our position, it can be hard to let go and allow someone else to help us with our workload. Allowing someone else, particularly a new tech, to get involved, can reduce our stress and give someone else a chance to advance their career and take on new projects that will help them grow.

List Making:

It may seem old school but making a list (and checking it twice), is a tried and true method of organization cited by most of our successful work/life balancing acts. If there are items we are consistently not getting to, or pushing to the bottom of the list, it can be a way of identifying things we don’t have time for (that we could delegate to someone else!).

A Support System:

In her interview, Kathy discusses the importance of a strong support system, one that can cover responsibilities when the need arises. This can be a mother in law who takes the kids a couple nights a week while you attend class, or a coworker who can provide flexibility. Sharing our personal problems at work can feel like a no-no, but being direct and saying, “hey, I have this going on, I am going to need a little more time, or a little bit of help” is much better than falling behind and having to explain later why you aren’t getting everything done.

Our mid-career members echo similar statements in this year’s new podcast episode, Career Perspectives. Early in your career it can feel like you’re not allowed to say no; like admitting you have too much on your plate is admitting failure and you will lose standing in a competitive work environment. As Jamie, Sherita, and Pricilla caution however, this do-it all attitude can leave us feeling burnt out by the time we enter our mid-career. Its okay to ask for help! An honest discussion about your workload is healthy!

One final piece of wisdom from our histo-women, Kim Simmons reassures us, even when you may feel guilty for being away, or feel like you are letting people down, others don’t see you that way. Your kids are proud of you. They see you accomplishing your dreams, setting an example of volunteerism and work ethic. Your co-workers and NSH family admire your ability to run a committee while killing it at work. So, don’t be too hard on yourself! You’re going great!

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