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Cytotechnology

About the Program

Cytotechnology is an allied health specialty that offers exciting possibilities for those who want a challenging career in science and a significant role in medical care. Cytology is the study of cells. A cytotechnologist is a highly skilled laboratory professional who studies cells microscopically. A health care professional obtains these cells by scraping, washing, or aspirating an area of the body. These cellular samples are prepared for evaluation and are stained with dyes that make the cells more visible under the microscope. A cytotechnologist is trained to recognize slight variations in the color, size, and/or the shape of the cellular structures.

Microscopic evaluation of the cytologic material by the cytotechnologist determines the presence or absence of abnormal or malignant (cancer) cells. If abnormal cells are present, a preliminary diagnosis is then referred to the pathologist for further evaluation. Working together, a final diagnosis is issued to the physician. Treatment may be most effective for the patient as a result of this early diagnosis of disease.

Cytotechnology originated in the 1940's when a method was developed to detect malignant and pre-malignant lesions in the female genital tract (the Pap smear). The profession has since expanded to include evaluation of specimens from other body organs, including but not limited to the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and urinary tracts, body cavities, and breast. With the development of fine needle aspiration techniques, organs such as liver, pancreas, thyroid, salivary glands, and lymph nodes are also sampled. Virtually every organ in the body is accessible for cytologic diagnosis.

Cytotechnologists must know basic human anatomy, physiology, and pathology. They must develop an in-depth knowledge of cell morphology of all body sites to accurately evaluate the various cytologic specimens. Knowledge of infections caused by bacteria, fungi, and parasites and cellular changes secondary to viruses is essential. In addition, cytotechnologists will master various specialized techniques for collecting, preparing, and staining many types of cell samples. Cytotechnologists must have knowledge of management and laboratory regulation issues. They will gain experience in research and presentation through a required research project.

Cytotechnologists play an integral role in the total health care of patients. Through routine cytologic screening and molecular diagnostic techniques, cellular changes can be detected before the malignant stage. Cancer may be prevented and lives saved.

The Program

The Cytotechnology Program was initiated in 1989 as a tract within the Bachelor of Health Sciences degree. It is the only program within the commonwealth of Virginia. The program is fully accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) in association with the Cytotechnology Program Review Committee of the American Society of Cytopathology.

The program is accredited for twelve (12) students. It is one of the largest non-military cytotechnology programs in the United States.

The length of the technical year is 12 months. Because of the intense nature of the program, the students attend classes from 1:00 PM to 8:00 PM for the entire technical year. The didactic course work for the program is given at the university. Concurrent with the academic year, clinical experiences are acquired during rotation to a variety of cytology laboratories throughout the region. The required times for the rotations coincide with the specific laboratory or hospital working hours. Students are responsible for providing their own transportation and housing during these clinical internships.

Upon satisfactory completion of the program, a graduate is eligible to sit for the national certification examination given by the Board of Registry of the American Society of Clinical Pathology. Upon successful completion of the registry examination, the cytotechnologist is allowed to use CT (ASCP) after their name. The program has an excellent success rate for the registry examination.

For more information on accredited Cytotechnology Programs, contact:
                    CAAHEP
                    1361 Park Street
                    Clearwater, FL 33756
                    Phone: 727-210-2350
                    FAX: 727-210-2354
                    E-mail: www.caahep.org

Program Options

The Certificate in Cytotechnology. A student with a Bachelor of Science degree with a minimum of 20 semester hours of biology, 8 semester hours of chemistry, and 3 semester hours of math may complete the senior year curriculum in cytotechnology and earn a Certificate in Cytotechnology. This allows the student to be eligible to sit for the registry examination.

The Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences (Cytotechnology Tract). The candidate for a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences within the Cytotechnology Tract must complete Old Dominion University's general education requirements, as well as all prerequisite coursework prior to starting the senior year. Prerequisite coursework includes 20 semester hours of biology, 8 hours of chemistry, 3 hours of math, laboratory management, research methods, and medical terminology.

The Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences (Cytotechnology Tract) - second degree candidate. This degree line allows students that already have a bachelor's degree to enter the Cytotechnology Tract after completing all required prerequisite coursework as a second degree candidate. The prerequisites are the same as for first degree candidates, with the exception that all general education requirements usually are satisfied by the first degree.

Master's in Clinical Sciences (Cytotechnology) - Accelerated Tract. (Proposed) This option is open to students coming into the cytotechnology program that meet specific requirements of GPA and coursework. Contact the program director for details.

Master's in Science (Cytotechnology). (Proposed) This option is for practicing cytotechnologists to allow for further education in management and/or education. Contact the program director for details.

Licensure And Certification

Upon successful completion of an approved Cytotechnology Education Program and proof of a baccalaureate degree, an individual is eligible to sit for the certification examination given by the Board of Registry of the American Society of Clinical Pathology. The Cytotechnology Program must be approved by the Committee on Allied Health Education and Accreditation and the Cytotechnology Programs Review Committee of the American Society of Cytopathology. Individuals who pass this examination may use the designation CT (ASCP) after their names.

An additional Specialist in Cytotechnology certification is available for persons with advanced degrees and/or experience. Individuals who pass this examination may use the designation SCT (ASCP) after their names. Cytotechnologists are required to be licensed in some states. Check with the state medical board for additional requirements.

Career Opportunities

Career opportunities are excellent. Rewarding positions may be found in traditional places of employment including both public and private hospital based laboratories, private laboratories, state and federal health care agencies, and molecular diagnostic laboratories. Non-traditional opportunities exist in industry, regulatory agencies, consulting, research and development, and higher education institutions.

The job opportunities, as well as the salaries, continue to increase with the advancement of new processing methods and tumor identification techniques. Approximately 70 % of the cytotechnology students are offered a position before the end of the senior year. Graduates have also gone on to medical school, physician assistants programs, or other graduate programs. Many ODU graduates are employed in management or supervisory positions across the country.

Personal Qualifications

An individual considering a career in cytotechnology should be able to perform work that requires precision and sound judgment. Manual dexterity, dependability, and good color vision are also important characteristics. Since the expertise of the cytotechnologist is relied upon in assuring high quality patient care, individuals who are interested in becoming a cytotechnologist should have a high degree of integrity and be willing to assume a great deal of responsibility.

Technical Standards

Technical standards represent the essential non-academic requirements of the program that students must master to successfully participate in the program and become employable. The following is a list of the technical abilities and skills applicants for admission must possess:

  1. Manual Dexterity: Ability to use hand(s) or prosthetic devices with coordination.
  2. Fine Motor: Ability to manipulate small objects with fingertips or adaptive devices.
  3. Vision: Ability to distinguish red, yellow, and blue colors; distinguish clear from cloudy; and distinguish objects through a microscope.
  4. Concentration: Ability to sit and concentrate visually for prolonged periods.
  5. Writing: Ability to communicate effectively in the written form in English.
  6. Reading: Ability to read, understand, and follow directions printed in English.

Graduation Requirements

  1. Completion of a minimum of 120 semester hours
  2. Pass Exit Examination of Writing Proficiency
  3. Complete Senior Assessment
  4. Have a minimum of 2.0 cumulative GPA and 2.0 in major
  5. Completion of 30 semester hours ODU residency