From Bench Tech To Supervisor

Are you ready to exchange your lab coat for a business suit? Many histotechologists have learned management skills on the job when they were promoted to a supervisory position by default. There is no time like the present to begin preparing yourself. The task will be much less daunting when a golden opportunity presents itself. Professional and personal preparations are essential. When a position becomes available and you will be ready to take the challenge and move to the next level; from bench tech to management.

Determine what position you will eventually seek and begin your preparations. Since opportunities seldom fall into our laps, if you wish to advance professionally, you must distinguish yourself from others in pursuit of the same advancement. Neither bench experience nor education alone qualifies one for a management position. Seasoned technologists often have a wealth of bench experience but are short on educational or management skills while technologists with less experience may have a B.S. degree but are short on technical proficiency. Addressing each shortcoming can put you in a position to meet the demand and rise above your competitors.

If you lack management skills, you can begin taking general business management courses at your local college. This will provide a basic understanding the dynamics of a supervisory role. On-line courses are also available and are easy to fit in to an already busy schedule. Your place of employment may offer leadership courses in interpersonal skills, decision making, communication and performance evaluation. Each year NSH offers certified management workshops at its annual Symposium/Convention. On completion of 12 hours of management workshops at the S/C you will receive a Management Certificate of Completion.

If you lack technical skills, attend local, regional and National seminars and workshops. The National Society of Histotechnology and American Society of Clinical Pathology websites offer many education opportunities. Teleconferences are a good source of information and are available through various educational organizations. If you have spent most of your career in routine histology, ask to sit-in on lectures or in-service training programs in specialties such as Immunohistochemistry, Neuropathology, or Molecular pathology. Ask to be assigned to a specialty where your skills are weak and work to improve them. In a supervisory or management position, it will be necessary to answer technical questions; be prepared. Challenge yourself to learn new disciplines. You could be a supervising an area where you have little or no technical experience, such as Cytotechnology or the Gross Dissection laboratory so you must have a basic understanding of these specialties.

To meet the demands and prepare yourself in your working environment, go the extra mile and take on projects and tasks which require planning and organizational skills. Excel at these projects. Volunteer to help the current supervisor, if he/she is willing to share tasks, and gain exposure to the types of responsibilities supervisors handle on a day to day basis. Ask to be assigned to special projects, such as writing a technical policies and procedures, evaluate and validate new technologies or a new stain on the automated stainer.

Reading is essential in your new role. Suggest modifications or new technologies to improve quality and productivity. Volunteer to mentor a new technician or assist in training programs. You will be leading by example. Serve on laboratory or hospital committees where you can be noticed by your peers and hospital management. Expertise in project management, Six Sigma and the Lean process is very marketable. Six Sigma certification is available at most large institutes. By making this extra effort you will make yourself visible. These extra supervisory projects, along with the management courses, will look great on your resume.

Distinguish yourself from your colleagues by active membership in professional laboratory organizations such as your state histology society, the NSH, and ASCP. Participation in professional organizations offers you the opportunity to network with other histotecnhologists and researchers, broadens your perspective and provides insight into the functioning of other laboratory sciences. Professional organizations offer seminars and workshops with expert laboratorians as speakers. You can achieve professional recognition by volunteering to be a speaker at an educational event. If you don’t feel your communications skills are effective enough, you can ask one of the organization’s recognized speakers to assist you. Most large employers have a Toast Masters group to help you overcome your fear of public speaking. Your leadership potential depends directly on your knowledge of our profession, the bulk of which comes from your years of experience. If you are thinking about a career move into a management position, it will require you to share your experience and knowledge with others.

All histotechnologists should exercise their ability for leadership. If you are reading this article you must agree. Preparation is the key to making a successful transition from bench tech to management. These efforts will demonstrate the determination and commitment deemed essential in a lead position
Use all your technical and leadership skills to advance into your first supervisory or management position. You may need a new wardrobe but keep that old lab coat handy. You may be new to management but you are first and foremost a histotechnology professional.

Submitted by Konnie Zeitner, HT(ASCP), HTL, SLS, NSH Member Since 1974

NSH Resource Material: Management Tool for Supervisors