Association of Anatomical Pathology Technology

Member Profiles

Decky, Trainee Anatomical Pathology Technologist, Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

As a child I would watch an animation series called ‘Once upon a time…life’ which tells the story of the human body for children. It was a way of learning about the mechanisms of the human body with characters representing various organs, system’s such as red blood cells or viruses. Each series would feature a different part of the body like the heart or the circulatory system. To this day I still remember how much I loved it and how it got me interested in how the body works.   

I have worked as a Medical Photographer for the NHS since 2006 as a student working my way up to a senior position.  My career came to an end when I was finally offered a position as a trainee APT in September 2021 and I will never look back!!

During my time as a photographer, I would attend the mortuary for various clinical reasons to photograph and document requests from coroners or pathologists which I would find interesting and ask questions as you do when you are curious and want to learn about the process. I began to take more interest in the roles of the mortuary staff and learn more about the work carried out and why.

My role as a photographer would also allow me to work with various consultants on the wards and in theatres which made every day vary as you didn’t know what you would be called to. I would be documenting anything from a diabetic foot to aortic heart valve replacement, it gave me the chance to learn more about anatomy and what the body does to recover and heal. 

It is early days for me here as I am still to start the RSPH Level 3 Diploma in Healthcare Science (Anatomical Pathology Technology), but I have learnt such a vast amount already, including how to care for the deceased, the importance of policies, HTA and other services that are customers to the mortuary such as Funeral services, Police services, coroners and most importantly families. 

I am keen to learn and develop my skills to make the department run as sufficient as possible. I am also pleased to be part of the AAPT, the courses give me so much more scope on what is happening in other areas, how changes come into play and the chance of what I am learning the though the courses get implemented in my everyday working role. 

 

 

Anja , Senior Anatomical Pathology Technologist, Norwich & Norfolk Hospital

Like most teenagers growing up I was slightly unsure what I wanted to do as a career. At college one of the A levels that I chose was Human Biology and I was absolutely hooked. I found the human body fascinating and knew then that my career would involve science in some way.

At university I studied Forensic Science and after leaving felt that this was the route I was going to go down. However I finished in 2008 just as the recession hit and struggled to find a job in this sector. To tide me over I took part in training to become a Health Care Assistant at the local hospital and found that I absolutely loved looking after patients, but I still felt that there was a role out there waiting for me to experience. After being an HCA for a year I then got a job in the Pathology Lab processing blood specimens, I continued to do this for another year.

During my time in the laboratories we used to receive toxicology specimens from the mortuary that had been taken at post mortem. I was really interested in so I messaged the Mortuary manager in the hospital and asked if I could come and have a chat, I wanted to find out a little bit more about the department and the role that the APTs carried out.

As it happens a few months later I was scrolling through NHS jobs and found the Trainee Anatomical Pathology Technologist position was being advertised. I read the job specification and knew that I could this. I’d found the job I was meant to do! I frantically filled out the job application and waited nervously to hear if I had been successful for interview.

I eventually found out that I had been successful and spent even more time really researching everything about the mortuary. I found that a really important part of working in the mortuary was ensuring that HTA rules were adhered to and I made sure to extensively research this area to gain more understanding. I was lucky enough to be successful in interview and began my new job role in 2010.

I began my new job and studying to complete the old Certificate which I finished in 2012. I was lucky to experience a range of different services such as Coronal and Hospital post mortems, Forensic post mortems and Paediatric work. I enjoyed the combination of looking after patients and giving the care and respect I had given to living patients when I worked as a HCA, but I also really enjoyed studying anatomy and the information that the body could give us after death.

I was really keen to continue my learning and wanted to complete the diploma however by the time I had the chance to apply for this course it had become obsolete. The only way I could gain my next level was to complete the new Level 3 Diploma. At first I was a bit frustrated that I had to complete this course before I could move forward and do the Level 4 Diploma but after starting it I realised how much more in depth it was and how much value there was in doing it. I really enjoyed the course and completed it in 2018.

I have now become a senior in my department and have nearly finished my Level 4 Diploma. I have learnt so much in the past 10 years as an APT and that there are so many different parts to being an APT, not just looking after deceased patients, but also the importance of documents, HTA, health and safety, infection control and the bereavement services. There is also a fantastic community that is found through the AAPT and also from doing the APT courses and I couldn’t be prouder to be part of it all.

 

Eve, Anatomical Pathology Technologist

Since childhood I have always had an interest in the human body and how it works. I was also curious about death, and I remember my first question once I found out somebody had passed away (until I was old enough to know it wasn’t generally a polite thing to ask!) was always “how?”.

In school I loved to learn about human biology so I went to university in Liverpool where I studied Anatomy, which provided me with my first encounters with the dead. Dissection was a huge part of the course and was always my favourite day of the week. I loved the patience that it required and the atmosphere of respect that we all shared while learning from the specimens so many donors had provided us with.

As my degree progressed, I began to consider what would come afterwards. I discovered the discipline of forensic pathology online, and immediately knew this was of great interest to me.

I knew that to become a forensic pathologist you had to go to medical school, so I decided this was what I had to do. A chance encounter introduced me to a pathologist named Jon, who very generously agreed to be my mentor through the application process. It was Jon who first told me about APTs, and this role appealed to me greatly.

I spent the rest of my time at university going to the coroner’s court to watch inquests and studying for entrance exams. I had interviews at all of the medical schools I applied for, but I didn’t make the final cut for any. However, I was undeterred, and turned my attention to APT roles instead. I applied for many posts in my third year of uni, but never having seen an actual post-mortem, I didn’t hear back.

It wasn’t until the end of third year that things started to progress - I had a week’s work experience in the mortuary at the Royal in Liverpool, where I was able to watch several post-mortems, including two forensics. I was in my element and very pleased to find that the APT role appealed to me much more than the pathologist. I loved being able to follow a patient through the process of the post-mortem and all that came afterwards, and found the reconstruction and cleaning very cathartic.

After this, I began having more luck with my applications for trainee APT jobs, but I still never quite managed to get past interview.

In a stroke of luck, I managed to get a job doing something else I loved - working at St. George’s Medical School in London dissecting specimens for their anatomy department.

This job taught me a lot very quickly as I had to prepare for an HTA inspection within my first month of work. I also taught medical students when demonstrators were short, and had to prepare and run a six week-long programme in which I taught students how to dissect a whole human body.

I thoroughly enjoyed working here, but after a year I was craving more varied work, so it seemed like fate when a trainee APT position came up in the mortuary at St. George’s in the summer of 2019. Luckily this application was more successful than my previous ones, and I was thrilled when I found out I’d got the job.

Being an APT has been everything I’d hoped for, and I adore the work I do. I love being able to care for the deceased and give them the dignity they deserve, and there is nothing more rewarding than knowing you’ve made what is probably a very difficult time for their loved ones that bit easier.

I am currently on my Level 3 training which I am enjoying so far, but the disruption of the COVID-19 crisis has sent us trainees on a slightly different (but still essential) learning curve. The AAPT has been instrumental in ensuring that we are assessed fairly during this difficult time.

In the long-run, I hope to get involved in public engagement, so that the general population can gain an understanding of the work we do. I would love to pursue extra training in specialisms such as DVI, and feel that the AAPT will be incredibly helpful in allowing me to meet these goals.

Anita , Anatomical Pathology Technologist

I became a trainee APT in December 2014 after struggling to find a career that I found fulfilling and rewarding.

I wasn’t someone who had always dreamed of working in a mortuary, quite the opposite in fact. I had spent my twenties working with patients who had learning disabilities and dementia then eventually found myself working as a dietetic assistant at the QMC in Nottingham. Whilst the role was enjoyable I didn’t feel any particular love for it and I began once again searching for a new role.

I spotted the job advert for the trainee post and without really knowing what it was all about I applied. I never thought for a second that I would be lucky enough to get the role yet the day after my interview I received a call stating I had gotten the job. I took to it like a duck to water and have never looked back.

My mentor at the time actively encouraged me (strong armed me!) to join the AAPT and impressed on me the importance of being part of a professional body and the benefits that came with it.

In 2015 I attended my first AAE in Inveness and it was amazing to meet so many like minded people who were so passionate about the care and dignity of the deceased. I was lucky enough in 2017 to begin my Level 3 diploma in Hartlepool. My colleague and I were the first candidates from Nottingham to undertake the new style diploma. It was at times challenging what with trying to find time to study and learn in such a busy environment.  

In 2018 I became qualified and with it promoted to a position with more responsibility. By this time we had 3 new trainees in place and I became mentor to one of them. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience to watch her grow in confidence and understanding and she is flying through her exams and assessments along with the rest of her cohort!

This year my trainee and I presented an abstract at the AEE in Edinburgh. Whilst public speaking terrifies me it was a fantastic opportunity to share with other APTs a topic we had been looking into that will no doubt affect the future of all APTs, plus it was another great opportunity to bag some of those all-important CPD points.  I have also recently been elected to the AAPT Council and am excited to be involved in the working groups and potential future professional registration movement.

When I was first strong armed into joining the AAPT I was unsure how it would really benefit me yet now 5 years down the line I couldn’t recommend it more. The AAPT are constantly striving for a better future for APTs as a whole (not just members), and ensuring that we have the tools we need to continue to be advocates for the deceased.

Gemma, Anatomical Pathology Technologist

From a very young age I strongly wanted to be a vet, then at around eleven years of age that switched to a fascination with History and Archaeology.

I ultimately went on to study Archaeology at a degree level and while there I discovered a fascination for human remains after I took a module in that subject. After this I studied for a Masters degree in Forensic Archaeological Science. A part of me then strongly considered working in a mortuary, but had ruled it out early due to a belief that you would need to have a medical background of some kind.

Directly after leaving university I really struggled to find employment. I worked as a field archaeologist for a period of about six months but it was a tough career to follow with contracts only lasting around one to two weeks. I put my archaeology career on hold, applying for jobs where I could in museums and other establishments but the only work I could get for a long time was in the department store where I had a weekend job when I was sixteen. I worked there for five years and became Assistant Sales Manager.

After five years I decided to try and move into something completely different, mainly motivated by not wanting to work weekends anymore. A friend of mine put me forward for a job where she worked at a big third-party financial administrator. I worked there for around five years also and became a Technical Expert in assisting with new projects and issues. Both of these jobs I made some excellent friends and met some great people, but all along I knew that I had to do a job I felt passionate about to make me happy.

During a conversation with a close friend of mine from university I uttered the words that I would quite like to work in a mortuary but I had no idea how. She just answered very simply told me to email the manager of the local mortuary and ask, which I did almost immediately.

After a brief email exchange I was convinced that this was the job I wanted. I was told that my background was quite well suited to work in a mortuary and that I could be a good candidate. I kept my eyes open for any trainee jobs I could see and applied for any that came up. I also tried to get any other job I could at the NHS as I was advised by others that working in the NHS already could be an advantage, and I was willing to try everything I could.

I didn’t hear much back at all from any of the jobs I applied for, only rejections and no interviews until I emailed again to my local mortuary asking what else I could do. He offered me a work placement for one week where I could observe the mortuary and I jumped at the chance. I took a week annual leave from my finance job and went to the mortuary, my colleagues could barely understand why I’d go spend my leave in a mortuary for a week but I had an excellent manager who supported me and knew that I was pursuing something important.

In the meantime, I was successful in getting an interview and subsequently a job at Guy’s Hospital as a Rota Coordinator in Oncology.

After around six months at Guy’s, a job came up at my local hospital for a Mortuary Assistant. I threw everything I could into getting that job, asked the mortuary staff at St. Thomas’ for help and looked into every possible interview question that could come up. I was successful and started my job as a Mortuary Assistant in October 2017. Since then I have applied for and been successful in getting a Trainee position.

I have also begun the Level 3 diploma and joined the AAPT Council as the Student Representative. I absolutely love my job, being involved in the AAPT and being able to do extra activities outside of my work such as running my Death Café, writing for my blog and attending events hosted by others. I feel like this career was so worth the wait but I am incredibly lucky to have found my dream job, particularly in a field a lot of people do not understand but is filled with wonderful people who do amazing things. 

Ellen, Queens Medical Centre, Anatomical Pathology Technologist

Working in a mortuary had entered my mind numerous times over the years but only as a flight of fancy.  I believed it to be a pipe dream that could never be realised because I didn’t follow a science based pathway educationally.   I did get accepted onto a BSc university course, however, it was for Special Effects design.  I intended to channel my interest in the aesthetics of injury and disease into a vocation creating anatomically correct prosthetic body parts for film and TV.  In the end that course fell through and I studied filmmaking instead.

Whilst at school and university I acquired a lot of body piercings and had started to collect  a few pieces of body modification.  Halfway through my third year at university in 2009, I left to begin a body piercing apprenticeship with the body modification studio I was a regular at. They approached me about studying with them and it was there that I started to learn about basic human anatomy, infection control and COSHH.  Enjoying these topics as I did made me again ponder mortuary work but instead of looking in to the possibility I assumed the qualifications and experience I had would not be suitable for it, and carried on with my apprenticeship. 

A conversation with a friend who worked in the Emergency Department of QMC switched a lightbulb on for me in 2012 and I realised a move into healthcare was the next logical step.  For for the first time ever a job within a mortuary seemed like a future possibility.  I joined NHS jobs and scrolled through endless pages of jobs that meant delivering direct patient care to people who would likely be in discomfort or pain, something I now knew was not for me.  This search was disheartening until I found a job advert for a healthcare assistant in the operating theatres.  The patients would be unconscious, I would get a better understanding of anatomy in context and most of my skills from piercing would be translatable to a role in healthcare.  I was successful in this application and began straight away trying to find out how to contact the mortuary to register my interest and find out more about what the role of a mortuary worker would entail. 

The same friend that led to me joining the NUH knew a little about the role of an APT from having to accompany deceased patients from Resus to the mortuary. She explained to me what she understood of the role and took me to the mortuary so I could ask advice on how to be a desirable candidate should a Trainee position come up in the future.  I was invited down for an insight visit and a senior APT described to me what the role involved and explained that Emergency Theatres was a good department to come from as I would endure similar traumatic sights and unpleasant smells as well having some understanding of anatomy.  This visit confirmed what I already knew, that I wanted desperately to work in a mortuary.  I kept in regular contact with the staff and spent an invaluable morning in the PM room observing a senior APT carry out eviscerations.

In September 2016 a Trainee APT role came up in the mortuary and for a second time I applied and was interviewed, only this time I was offered a Trainee position.

Every day is different and brings with it plenty of opportunity to learn new information and techniques. Only 9 months into the role I booked myself a place to attend the AAPT conference in Cardiff and I was so delighted to be there.  It is amazing to be apart of a community of APTs and related professionals, for the knowledge, shared experiences and support, not to mention adding to the betterment of the career itself.

In being a trainee APT I have found my forever job, the career I have always wanted, that fills me with pride to do and to tell anyone who will listen, about.  

 

Ruth,  Anatomical Pathology Technologist

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, Anatomical Pathology Technologist

"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"

 

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"

Amy,  Mortuary Manager:

"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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