Association of Anatomical Pathology Technology

Member Profiles

Ruth Delaney, Trainee APT, Queen Street Public Mortuary Aberdeen

I obtained my Children’s Nursing degree in the summer of 2011. While searching for a staff nurse position, I came across an advertisement for an APT at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

The job sounded so interesting that I didn’t want to waste the opportunity to be involved in such a fascinating field – so I took a leap of faith and applied.

I am glad I did as I started working as a trainee APT in the December of 2011. When I started my post the original qualification route was changing and so I waited to start the Level 3. Under the guidance of my manager, pathologist and colleagues I utilised my time as best I could and learned as much of the knowledge and skills required for working in a hospital mortuary.

In 2014 I started the Level 3. I was excited about starting it because it was a sign of progression in our profession and I was thrilled to be part of it. I was part of the first intake for the new course and this involved travelling to Hartlepool every so often for in house training. The course work itself is essential for our role but sometimes I found it tricky to find the time to do it due to work commitments but it was manageable.

We had also formed good friendships and a great support network within our class which I definitely think made a difference. I knew that we could all depend on one another as well as our module leader Michelle Lancaster - as we all wanted each other to succeed – and this helped boost morale.
A couple of months after starting the Level 3 I decided that I wanted more experience in the forensic side of post-mortems and joined Queen Street Public Mortuary, Aberdeen in 2014. This is a small but busy facility which is primarily focussed on finding out the cause of sudden & unexplained deaths under instruction from the Procurator Fiscal. I have been here two and half years and I love it. The job itself can be challenging at times but I like the idea of being involved in a unique field.

Five years ago I made the scary decision to change my career path and at times I was unsure I had made the right decision. However last year I became the first in Scotland to achieve the RSPH Level 3 Diploma in Anatomical Pathology Technology. Not only has this achievement helped me validate my choice but it also allowed me the opportunity to attend the University of Chester to carry on my studies and obtain the Level 4.

 

Tarot Noble, Anatomical Pathology Technologist, Colchester General Hospital

"I began working as an assistant APT in 2010. This was something that I was interested in before I started university. As an assistant, I was taught the basics of what was really involved with APT work, and I loved every aspect of it. Once I became a trainee, under a brilliant team, I was taught everything I needed to know for this role. My managers from both my assistant and trainee posts recommended joining the AAPT. I was unsure at first, not knowing much about it, but joined because of the resources available to me as a student member, as well as the chance to network with other APTs.

By 2013, I had passed my Certificate and Diploma courses and made a network of new friends along the way. Through meetings, conferences and events with the AAPT, I learned the importance of the AAPT Council and how hard they have worked towards getting the AAPT recognised, and recently in the re-hauling of the entire qualifications system. The passion of those involved has spurred me to want to be more involved within the AAPT, and I started this by becoming a CPD Scrutiniser, allowing me to be part of the process for updating our CPD to fall in line with the Biomedical Scientists, and to mark others’ work.

More recently, I jumped at the chance to become an assessor for the new Diploma courses. I had only just reached my two years post-Diploma experience, but this had the benefit of being new enough to understand how the students felt, ideally allowing them to be more relaxed and show off their skills during assessment rather than being anxious. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and assessing the students, and was glad to find that I was able to learn and pick up new skills from them.

I cannot recommend joining the AAPT enough to APTs on this career path, as it has managed to help me in continuing my studies and meet a vast network of like-minded, passionate people. I have learned so many tips and techniques from attending other mortuaries on assessment days by watching the students and discussing aspects with more experienced APTs. This has allowed me to suggest changes in my place of work for the better, which would not have happened if I had not been an AAPT member"

 

Michelle Lancaster FAAPT, North Tees & Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust

"Being a member of the AAPT has definitely had a resounding impact on my career as an APT. Several years ago I simply paid my subscriptions and received my yearly diary and the news letters… occasionally I would log onto the forum but often questioned what was actually in it for me as I sat behind my desk in my isolated mortuary.... I then attended a survey results meeting a couple of years ago and realised that so much more was happening beneath the surface - I was amazed there were only a handful of council members trying as best as they could to improve the professional status of the APT nationally whilst also holding down full time jobs in mortuaries themselves!

Following on from the survey result day, I felt it was my duty to support the AAPT instead of complaining that I didn’t see much happening.

Over the last couple of years there have been massive changes in areas which directly affect the APT, including the changes to the examination system. We had all heard change was coming but by being an active supporter and member of the AAPT,  I felt better prepared for the change, so much so that our Trust has become a national training centre for the new RSPH Level 3 Diploma in APT. Our team often talked about the possibility of this happening one day, now it’s a reality!

I also stayed away from the annual conferences, mainly as I was led to believe it was a “ members only” club… nothing could have been further from the truth. After attending the Manchester conference in 2010, I was impressed at the organisation of the event and the range of topics discussed. I met so many amazing APTs who I now keep in touch with to share ideas and on occasion problems… its an excellent informal support network. 

I am glad the AAPT member numbers are rising and I would actively encourage people to join…  the more who join the stronger the association becomes, the more ideas get shared, the more problems are solved and the more hands on deck  involved behind the scenes to keep raising the profile of our brilliant profession"

 

Martin Goddard, Mortuary, Bereavement, and Tissue donation manager

"I came into the profession in 2001 after many years of wishing to work in a Mortuary. I was 23 at the time and like so many others who started their career in the Mortuary I thought that I would be running around the country solving murders like they do on the TV. Of course as we all know that's not the case and the reality was that at that time Mortuary staff really performed only a limited number of tasks which supported the autopsy process. In fact at that time we were still called Morticians or Mortuary Technicians and sadly still in some places known as Mortuary Attendants.

It was in 2003 when I attended my certificate training course in Southampton that a new organisation for Mortuary staff was suggested. This was the AAPT and I was immediately hooked by the idea of a body that would support people like me and develop the profession as a whole. I loved the idea of giving our profession a voice where there was none before and improving patient care. This became especially important to me as at the time my mother had just died of cancer and I could empathise with people who were in the same situation. I realised that at the time of bereavement people are scared and need to be reassured that their loved one is going to be looked after by someone who was highly professional and caring. I saw the AAPT as the organisation to make this common practice and change the odd perceptions people have about staff working in Mortuaries. I joined without hesitation and never looked back.

I went on to pass my diploma exam in 2004 and then undertook any additional training courses I could find. I found courses such as first-line management provided by the Institute of Leadership and Management & a Masters degree in death, bereavement and human tissue studies run by Staffordshire University very beneficial. Armed with the skills from these courses and experience I have gained I eventually became the Senior APT in Exeter. At this point I developed a special interest in tissue for transplant. I had already been retrieving corneas for transplant since 2002 but realised that there was unexplored potential for donors in my hospital. I was not so concerned with the actual donations but rather I was interested in giving bereaved people the opportunity to do something that they may find comfort in. Everyone is entitled to make an informed decision for themselves and I felt that giving people the opportunity to donate tissue for transplant was something that was rarely happening because of a lack of knowledge around the subject. I therefore decided to set up a Trust wide training program so that everyone within my organisation would be able to offer tissue donation to families of people that died. This had was warmly received and as a result NHS transplant invited our Trust to tender for being one of 10 special schemes in the UK to educate, support and retrieve corneas for transplant.

I am now the Mortuary, Bereavement, and Tissue donation manager in Exeter. I have continued to use the core principles of the AAPT to improve my practice and those of the people I work with. It has been incredibly beneficial to users of my service be it funeral directors, police or families. The AAPT has been and invaluable resource for identifying areas where improvements could be made and at times simply to get support and bounce ideas off of fellow APTs. The introduction of CPD and registration is fantastic news and essential in modernising our profession now and in the future. I currently I'm part of the Southwest regional AAPT forum and as a working group we all recognise the benefits registration. This is a great achievement by the AAPT and one that I believe we should all embrace.

Throughout my career I have seen huge changes that have been brought about by the APT. Not only does it address issues that affect staff that work in Mortuaries why can equalising of pay but it has also had a pivotal role in addressing issues like Human Tissue Act and care of the deceased. I'm really proud to be part of an organisation that has the concerns of bereaved people at its core and look forward to seeing how this will develop in the future"

David King FAAPT, University Hospitals Nottingham

"I started work in the NHS in 1998 as an admin assistant in the Estates department at Guy’s and St Thomas NHS Foundation trust. When asked by the Mortuary staff to organise a repair of the electrics, I was intrigued by the staff and their role.  I found the APTs friendly and professional and very inspiring by their approach to caring for the deceased.  I waited a good year for a trainee role to come up.  I applied and the rest is history.

I recall at some point in 2002 we had a visit from Alan Moss, who was trying to get other APTs on board to form a professional body.  I bought into the idea straight away, .  although my mentor was passionate and very knowledgeable about Anatomical Pathology and care of the deceased I was very excited that there was talk of APTs coming together to share knowledge, skills and ideas in a professional forum. In 2003, that is exactly what happened with the formation of the professional body for Anatomical Pathology Technologists, The AAPT.

I joined the AAPT straight away, and with membership ,came access to so many other experienced APTs not just in London, but around the whole country!  As I was training for the old style Certificate back then, the forum was an area where I could ask questions to other trainees about their experiences and anxieties about sitting exams and share ideas and stories about this new and exciting world.  

Once qualified with the diploma and gaining experience fast across Hospital and Public Mortuary roles, I felt that I wanted to share what I had learned and get more hands on with the AAPT.  In 2006 I voluntarily registered myself under the former VRC scheme (now replaced with AHCS) and a few years later was nominated to join Council.

With this council role, I was able to get involved in working groups and I particularly enjoyed steering The London and South-East regional group organising educational events and visits relevant to our discipline.  These events were free to any APT that wanted to attend and as well as being educational, they were fantastic networking tools, providing a friendly environment for APTs to meet each other putting names to voices they have spoken to but never met.

CPD is a fundamental aspect of any Healthcare science role and the AAPT have been crucial in providing learning material, signposting to relevant documents and guidelines and the provision of courses as well as the annual conference which have assisted in me gaining the basic 40 credits a year.  Historically APTs have not been well included in the science community and were not great at recording CPD activity, or even understanding what it fully entailed.  The CPD portfolio and CPD award, I found were a great way of helping APTs develop and record activity and celebrating success great for confidence and morale. I have gained two CPD awards from the AAPT and I found the CPD assessors helpful with their feedback on my efforts. 

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my role is teaching and mentoring the trainees at Queens Medical Centre Mortuary in Nottingham where I now work.  This is a very exciting time in the world of Education for APTs, with the new Level 3 diploma into its third cohort I have had to work hard myself, to ensure I am teaching my student APTs to the level required. There is a great support network, not only from the course facilitator and APTs on the council, but others from Mortuaries around the country.  The student APTs that I mentor have followed suit, joined the AAPT and have already got bulging CPD folders and access to other TAPT through the student network. Next on my agenda is the Practical Assessor training and after a three year break, perhaps a place on council is the challenge I need"

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Amy Ellis FAAPT journey from a Student Member to Mortuary Manager at KCH:

"When I began working as a trainee Anatomical Pathology Technologist at Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in February 2006 I already knew that the Association of Anatomical Pathology Technologists existed but was not sure of its relevance.

My senior at the time advised me and the other trainee who had started two months previously about the benefits of becoming a member of the AAPT but after looking at the website we were not convinced and as a trainee on low wage paying to be a member did not appeal to us.

After a while the benefits of becoming a member became clear to include access to an online forum for members provided a place to ask questions and chat to your colleagues and discount for events and the annual conference. Despite this I was still reluctant until I went to my first Conference – Birmingham 2008.

It took me two years to build up the courage to sign up and after meeting fellow APTs on my Certificate Course in London I felt that I wouldn’t be standing in a room with strangers.

There was no need to worry, everyone was so welcoming and friendly and I started to feel part of a big family. After that there was no stopping me I joined the Association and began attending courses and annual Conferences.

In 2008 I passed my Certificate; in 2009 I passed my Diploma and became Senior APT at Kings College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

Next on the AAPT agenda, for me, was to be persuaded to become Voluntarily Registered. This progression again was faced with a lot of resistance from members and non-members but the truth was that when it was first discussed the resistance was due to lack of understanding.

The Council have spent a lot of time and energy into helping APTs understand the importance of being voluntarily registered and after a long journey it is now a case that compulsory registration of our profession will happen so join us or suffer the consequences. I became voluntarily registered in 2012. It took me 3 years after passing my Diploma to apply but the actual application took me a few hours.

The Association are continually looking for ways of improving us as APTs and I that should be celebrated, the membership numbers have increased to over 300 but there are still many APTs out there that do not know or appreciate the benefits of becoming a member and how important it is to stand together as one group of people following a unique and rewarding career.
It has taken 8 years to get where I am today and I can honestly say that the support of the Association and the knowledge of my fellow APTs have been the reason why I have continued to progress. Next stop Council!"

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