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The Top Path Lab Skills You Need for 2023

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Maybe your placement contract is about to expire or your current job isn’t the best at managing burnout. Whatever the reason, if you’re thinking of leaving your lab, you’re not alone—according to a recent study of turnover in anatomic pathology departments, the median of the three-year average was 14.3 percent, while the 90th percentile was 28 percent.

Despite the attrition, another study showed that only 4.7 percent of pathology departments report vacancies—one of the lowest rates in the lab industry. And while multiple factors influence the number of available pathologists’ assistant jobs, many labs are building efficient, lean operations that accomplish more with fewer people.

What does that mean for an enterprising, experienced pathologists’ assistant like yourself? Expect tight competition for a limited number of openings. You’ll need a top-notch resume highlighting the skills that you’ve developed up to this point in your career. But what skills are most in demand? What can help you stand out?

We’re glad you asked.

Key Skills for Your Resume

Let’s face it—when it comes to job titles, work history, and responsibilities, one pathologists’ assistant resume isn’t going to look all that different from another. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t tout your ASCP certification or your first histotech job (you should!), but because the field can be very competitive, the PA lead or hiring manager will likely read your resume in detail. This allows you to showcase skills, experiences, and qualities that uniquely position you as a reliable partner in the lab:

  • Dedication: As we mentioned above, churn is a real problem in labs today. If your resume shows that you worked as a grossing tech or histotech and then trained to be a pathologist’s assistant, make sure that’s front and center. A candidate who has stuck it out with the same lab and grown through several positions may be preferable to a lab-hopping applicant. If you get the interview, be prepared to talk candidly (and carefully) about why you’re looking for work at a new lab.
  • Attention to detail: This isn’t just about ensuring that your dictations and findings are clear or that you’re not letting your mind wander while taking vitals. Highlight a time when you sectioned a particularly tricky specimen, or cut and stained a difficult frozen. Were you the lead pathologists’ assistant? Don’t save that for the interview!
  • Analytical chops: Feature experiences that demonstrate you’re not just going through the motions and you’re not afraid to dig a little deeper when something doesn’t quite add up. For example, did a pathologist ever commend you for a dictation that was clear and concise?
  • Interpersonal skills: Establishing a good rapport with other staff members is table stakes. Point out times when you stepped up to help out. Maybe you took care of some additional specimens so that another PA could attend a conference or spend extra time with their family. And what lab wouldn’t want someone who voluntarily took over the additional grossing to give their teammates a little extra breathing room?
  • Willingness to grow: Nobody is perfect every time—but maybe you asked for help so you could give the patient the best care possible. The same goes for courses you’ve taken for self-enrichment or to improve conditions at your lab. If you’ve undergone additional training with the AAPA and ASCP to increase your lab’s preparedness for CAP inspections, point that out. Going out of your way to help colleagues counts, too—such as working with fellow PAs to improve dictation or reduce specimen errors.

Don’t Let Your Experience Go to Waste

While these skills are helpful when you’re looking for a pathologists’ assistant role, they’re also great to keep in mind if you’re building a resume tailored to pathologists’ assistant jobs. Highlight strengths that show you’re not just showing up for the paycheck. Look your resume over and ask yourself whether you’d want to work with that person in the lab every day.

Your resume is the first impression that a potential new lab will have of you. Don’t let formatting errors and bland layouts keep you from rising to the top: download our free Resume Template for tips and inspiration to make sure yours stands out from the crowd for all the right reasons.

Free Resume Template


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