Thursday, April 7, 2011

Eyes - Thoughts on loss of autonomy

I grossed an eye last night. It was a veterinary specimen as are most of the eyes we receive where I work (While we do occasionally get human eyes for things like melanoma, it is much more likely that we get eye parts like corneal buttons, schlera and conjunctiva), so I grossed it. The important thing to remember is to use a brand new blade (so it is very sharp) and to--in the abscence of a large mass--make sure to submit the optic nerve. We get a bizarre number of specimens with absolutely no clinical history, I'm not sure if it is a case of "make the pathologist guess why we cut this off!" or what. The paperwork for this case just read "L. eye" which was not particularly helpful.

My days of relative independence are sharply numbered. Our veterinary pathologist trained me and for the past couple years I've had a fair amount of freedom in grossing her cases. Occasionally I do have to consult with her to find out what to do with a particular specimen but months can go by without that happening. With our human specimens, as long as it is something I am signed off to gross I will do it or one of the other two grossing techs I work with will.  Anything larger either gets the on-call pathologist called in or it is held for one of the hospital PAs to gross the next morning. Very rarely anymore do we ever have to grab a pathologist and ask them how to do something.

But I'm going to be a student.  I need to put aside pride and what I think I know how to do. I will have months of school before I ever start grossing anything, it is time enough to forget the rhythm and cadence of my dictations. I am not so old as to be set in my ways or think myself so perfect that I feel like I don't have anything else to learn. I'm pretty sure the first few months of didactic learning will be humbling enough to make me realize there is lots that I don't know.

I am going to be graded, I am going to be challenged, I am going to be tightly supervised. I will not be a relatively experienced grossing tech that can be trusted to do her job without direct supervision--I will be a student awaiting instruction because getting as much out of the program as they are willing to teach me is so much more important than my ego.
This is my new perception of self


  1. What do you mean when you say you 'grossed' something? I have a vague idea, yet part of me visualizes someone making a sick face at a slimly object(not that it doesn't ever happen, but I doubt that's the official definition). :P

  2. I've never been good at explaining what I do... basically you get a tissue specimen and visually assess it, dictate a description, cut it up to view the interior, and if the specimen needs microscopic examination as well (and most do) you submit sections of it for processing so they can be dehydrated, embedded in wax and cut into microns thick sections for slides by the histotechs.

    The fact that grossing is sometime gross is a fact that brings great amusement to friends of mine who know what I do.