Case study

Senior anatomical pathology technologist — Lara-Rose Iredale

Lara-Rose explains that passion, persistence and people skills are much more valuable than formal education when pursuing a career as an anatomical pathology technologist (APT)

How did you get your job?

I knew that trainee APT positions were incredibly rare and highly competitive, so I took a longer route by firstly getting an administrative role within an NHS hospital. Once there, I made contact with the mortuary and was incredibly fortunate to be able to shadow the APT.

I used this experience to demonstrate that I had seen a post-mortem, knew what the job involved and, importantly, was able to cope physically and mentally with the reality of the experience.

From there, I successfully applied for a mortuary administration assistant job, which I had for two years before a trainee position became available in the same mortuary.

What's a typical day like?

I can spend the day in the post-mortem room, or in the office, or running between both. Although we try to plan the day, it's quite fluid and liable to change at a moment's notice.

Our day starts at 8am, and we conduct the majority of post-mortem examinations in the morning. APTs assist the pathologist, eviscerating and reconstructing the patients.

Meanwhile in the office, there are constant phone calls - liaising with coroner's officers, arranging meetings with and assisting families, helping doctors coming into the mortuary and, of course, all the associated paperwork that needs attending to.

As a senior APT, I may also be required to deliver teaching to different departments about what we do and our policies and procedures. Another part of my job is to arrange hospital funerals for parents who have experienced miscarriages and stillbirths.

What do you enjoy about your job?

Ultimately, we're advocates for the deceased and their families, and it's incredibly rewarding to be able to fulfill their needs.

This job is unpredictable by nature and although that can be rather challenging sometimes, I'm certainly never bored.

What are the challenges?

Being on call is something I don't really look forward to. It's never going to be fun getting woken up in the early hours.

The amount of paperwork involved with the job can also get quite overwhelming sometimes. Administration is, however, a crucial part of the role, and a lot of people underestimate this when wanting to become an APT.

Is your degree relevant?

Completely honestly - not at all (my degree is in forensic psychology). The only qualifications you need to become an APT are GCSEs, as everything else is learned on the job.

That being said, qualifications and knowledge in the areas of human anatomy and physiology will be helpful in the long term, once you're in the job. However, people skills and your ability to handle challenging situations are favoured over any formal learning.

How has your role developed and what are your ambitions?

I began as a trainee in October 2014 and qualified in July 2017. During that time I mainly learned the practical aspects of the job under the mentorship of a senior APT.

Since qualifying, I work more autonomously and have more responsibilities alongside the running of the mortuary. I was promoted to senior APT around a year after qualifying, which means I now have even more responsibility with regards to how the mortuary operates. I deliver teaching and mentor my own trainee APTs.

For the future, I hope to continue with the Level 4 Diploma in Anatomical Pathology Technology and become more involved with delivering teaching and education.

Any words of advice for someone wanting to get into this job?

  • Be patient, but persistent. Due to the scarcity of trainee positions available, it may be years before you're successful in getting an interview.
  • Be passionate and get creative. You have to be able to demonstrate your passion for this career. Read and research all you can about the role of an APT, the Human Tissue Act, Coronial law and current issues that may be in the news. Try to get as much relevant experience as you can.
  • Make sure you know where you can go for help if you need to. This job can take its toll emotionally and physically, no matter how much you love doing it.

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