Anyone who watches TV hospital and detective shows would be under the impression that pathology is a little-known back-room discipline practised by anonymous people in white coats. But actually, pathologists could be described as the strong supporting backbone of medical science. Working with doctors and other medical practitioners or within a pathology laboratory, pathologists occupy a consultancy role within a medical team working to provide diagnosis and treatments.
What is pathology?
Pathology is the process that studies body tissue, blood and other bodily fluids to determine the changes that cause disease, as well as showing how severe a condition is and how treatment needs to be monitored.
According to the 2015 Pathology Australia Federal Budget Submission report 70% of all medical diagnoses and 100% of all cancer diagnoses rely on a pathology report for diagnosis and care management. Pathology is essential in the management of chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and HIV, to name but a few and pathology testing is especially required for the majority of preventive public health programmes. Over a typical twelve month period more than 50% of all Australians will need pathology testing for one condition or another, whether it is disease, surgical or trauma related, so pathology testing is undoubtedly responsible for saving lives. Not bad is you’re looking for a career that you can enjoy and feel like you’re doing something good at the same time.
How to get into pathology
Because of how the referral and funding of pathology services works in Australia, with the majority of referrals coming directly from GPs and funding being provided through a mix of private and public funding bodies, Australia has a supremely efficient and accessible pathology service; in fact one of the best in the world.
Working in Pathology in Australia
The medical institutions and facilities in Australia are at the forefront of the medical disciplines and pathology work offers many opportunities to expand and upgrade through ongoing education and research, as well as in teaching. Pathology laboratory facilities can vary from in size from small 2/3 person operations up to large-scale commercial ones which could employ up to 30 pathologists. And the hours within private facilities will probably be along the lines of a standard 38 hour week. Pathologists employed in a laboratory setting will rarely be on-call whereas hospital based pathologists will, of course be required to work some on-call hours because of the sometimes urgent nature of particular conditions. An advantage of working within a hospital can mean that there are opportunities for further training and specialisation, and for the supervision of trainees. Australia has many opportunities for pathology training and work, with high demand particularly in the field of Anatomical Pathology (Histopathy) and Haemotology.
So, Is It For You?
The most common misconception people have about pathology is that pathologists work only with the dead; that the work is repetitive and isolated, shut away from the rest of the world! The reality is that forensic pathology is just one branch of pathology. There are a range of disciplines in a variety of settings. Pathology is intellectually challenging and you can work family-friendly hours in many cases. Check out some of the job openings on offer right now. As the world evolves, more and more of these types of jobs will open up, and if you’ve started right, with Pathology courses, then you could soon be filling one of these positions.
So if you’re the type who is fascinated by how things work, why things go wrong, how to put things back together, then pathology may be your dream career.