Anatomical pathology technologists (APTs) support pathologists (specialised doctors) during post-mortem examinations or autopsies.
Post-mortem's are carried out to find out the cause of someone's death, either to help enhance future medical care for other people or to provide answers after an unexplained death or accident.
An APT's duties include:
Relatives may want to view a body or may have to identify it formally before it is released for burial or cremation. APTs are responsible for making sure that the body is presentable for viewing.
APTs are also responsible for the everyday running and maintenance of the mortuary service and post-mortem room. This includes:
APTs also keep accurate identification records. They deal with enquiries from anyone needing information about a deceased person, including the police, coroners and relatives. The work requires close involvement with bereaved relatives, respecting their cultural and religious attitudes. This includes conducting viewing's in the mortuary quiet room and providing information for documents such as death certificates, cremation forms and other paperwork.
APTs often train other healthcare staff, such as doctors, nurses, paramedics and porters, who need to be aware of mortuary procedures and practices.
APTs usually work 37.5 hours a week, with some shifts and weekend work. Occasional overtime is required, as the workload can be unpredictable. Part-time work and job sharing are possible.
They work indoors in a mortuary. Hospital mortuaries may be in a basement.
APTs wear sterile protective clothing for post-mortem work. This includes surgical scrubs (gowns and trousers), disposable gloves, a face mask and boots. They may also wear a sealed visor and respirator during high-risk examinations, for instance when people have died from an infectious disease.
APTs have to cope with unpleasant sights and smells as some deaths are caused by fire, violence or accidents. Their work involves standing for long periods.
Trainees normally start on around £15,000 to £18,000. Higher-level APTs may earn from around £20,000 to £27,000.
APTs with managerial responsibilities may earn from around £30,000 to £45,000.
They may be paid extra for being on call or if they work in London.
There are fewer than 1,000 APTs working throughout the UK, mainly in large towns and cities. That number has remained stable over the past few years. There tends to be competition for vacancies.
Most APTs work in NHS hospital or local authority mortuaries.
Vacancies are advertised in regional newspapers and on the NHSjobs website. The Association of Anatomical Pathology Technology (AAPT) also features jobs and training opportunities on their website.
There are no set minimum qualifications required to become a trainee APT. However, most employers prefer applicants to have GCSE's (A*-C) in English, maths and a science (preferably biology) or other qualifications, such as:
BTEC Awards, Certificates and Diplomas in applied science, either medical or forensic.
BTEC Higher National Certificate or Diploma in biomedical science.
Diploma in society, health and development.
Diploma in science.
APTs begin their training with a short period of observation, followed by practical work supervised by a pathologist and more senior APTs.
During the first two years of work, an APT is expected to study towards the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) Certificate in Anatomical Pathology Technology. Training is available by day or block release, usually totaling 40 hours. It may be possible to take a two-week residential course instead.
Topics covered include:
As well as completing a practical assessment record book and attending the course, students take a two-hour written examination. Successful candidates can then apply to be an Associate Member of RSPH.
Once qualified, APTs can take further study leading to the RSPH Diploma in Anatomical Pathology Technology. This requires a further year of training.
Technologists can join the AAPT as a Student, Certificate Member or Diploma Fellow. AAPT provides continuing professional development (CPD), help and guidance to its members.
APTs may join the Voluntary Registration Council's voluntary register if they meet one or more of the criteria:
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
An APT should:
With experience and the RSPH Diploma, it is possible to move into management positions or advanced technical work.
Association of Anatomical Pathology Technology (AAPT),
12 Coldbath Square, London EC1R 5HL
Tel: 020 7278 2151
Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH),
3rd Floor, Market Towers, 1 Nine Elms Lane, London SW8 5NQ
Tel: 020 3177 1600
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.