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Histotechnician Mary Ann Blaney

Mary Ann Blaney was a histotechnician for 20 years. She had never heard of histology – the study of body tissues– until one of her advisors at Columbus State Community College told her to look into it.

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By Lisa A. Goldstein

Mary Ann Blaney was a histotechnician for 20 years. She had never heard of histology – the study of body tissues – until one of her advisors at Columbus State Community College told her to look into it. After completing the two-year program, Blaney graduated with an associate science degree. She worked at three different hospitals, the last one for almost 17 years.

“I loved the job, but it was a very stressful position,” Blaney recalls. At Mt. Carmel Hospital East in Columbus, Ohio, she dealt with pathologists who were strict about how to cut tissues and deal with stains.

Being deaf was an additional challenge. In the late 1940s, Blaney was prescribed streptomycin for whooping cough or a bad cold, which caused her deafness. She was four years old when she got her first hearing aid. In 2000, she got cochlear implants, which helped with her job. They allowed her to hear the bells and whistles from different machines.

Time clocks went off every 15 minutes to alert technicians to take slides out and put them in a staining machine that ran for 30 minutes, and then run them into a coverslipper to cover the slides. They had to watch the coverslip to make sure it didn’t jam. The machines all made noises, so Blaney didn’t have to rely on her co-workers.

Blaney had an excellent boss who understood her hearing loss. The phone constantly rang, but Blaney didn’t have to use it. Her co-workers asked her to do the jobs requested by pathology, perhaps as a way to make up for it. Working on the night shift, there were always request slips on the tray, so Blaney knew what she had to do.

“I loved my job,” Blaney says. “It was a little bit of everything and a challenge.”

Blaney calls herself strong headed and outspoken, which helped her when dealing with co-workers who didn’t want to cooperate or do their jobs. To enter this field means understanding medical terminology and other related fields. It doesn’t mean just working with body tissues, as histotechnicians also help with medical technology, cytology, and the blood bank. With technology changing so much, almost everything runs on computers now. Understanding how things work helps with troubleshooting.

Blaney is now retired. She walks her Boxer Lucy every morning and evening, watches her granddaughter once a week after school, and travels when she has the opportunity. Her advice about retirement? “Make sure you have enough income to live on and have a hobby,” she says.

La histotécnica Mary Ann Blaney

Mary Ann Blaney fue histotécnica durante 20 años. Nunca había oído hablar de la histología, el estudio de los tejidos corporales para ayudar en los diagnósticos médicos, hasta que uno de sus asesores en el Columbus State Community College le sugirió que la considerase. Tras finalizar el programa de dos años, Mary Ann se graduó con un título de asociado (Associate Degree) en ciencias. Trabajó en tres hospitales diferentes y en el último durante casi 17 años.

«Me encantaba el trabajo, pero era un puesto muy estresante», recuerda Mary Ann. En Mt. Carmel Hospital East en Columbus, Ohio, tuvo que tratar con patólogos que eran estrictos sobre la manera de cortar los tejidos y manejar la tinción.

Tener sordera era un reto adicional. A finales de la década de 1940, a Mary Ann le recetaron estreptomicina para el tratamiento de la tos ferina o un fuerte resfriado, lo que le provocó sordera. Tenía cuatro años cuando recibió el primer audífono. En el año 2000 recibió implantes cocleares, lo que le ayudaría en su trabajo, permitiéndole oír las campanas y los silbidos de las diferentes máquinas. Los relojes de control se activaban cada 15 minutos para avisar a los técnicos de que debían sacar los portaobjetos y colocarlos en una máquina de tinción durante 30 minutos para situarlos, a continuación, en un cubreobjetos para cubrir los portaobjetos. Debían observar el cubreobjetos para asegurarse de que no se atascara. Todas las máquinas emitían un sonido, por lo que Mary Ann no tenía que depender de sus compañeros de trabajo.

Tuvo la suerte de trabajar con un jefe excelente que entendía su pérdida auditiva. El teléfono sonaba constantemente pero Mary Ann no tenía que atenderlo. Sus compañeros de trabajo le pedían que realizase los trabajos solicitados por patología, tal vez como una forma de compensarlo. Trabajando en el turno de noche, siempre había formularios de solicitud en la bandeja, por lo que Mary Ann sabía lo que tenía que hacer.

«Me encantaba mi trabajo», asegura. «Tenía un poco de todo y suponía un reto».

Mary Ann se considera una persona decidida y franca, lo que le sirvió para lidiar con compañeros que no querían cooperar o realizar su trabajo. Trabajar en este campo significa comprender la terminología médica y otros ámbitos relacionados. No se trata simplemente de trabajar con tejidos corporales, ya que los histotécnicos también ayudan en la tecnología médica, la citología y el banco de sangre. Con el rápido cambio tecnológico, actualmente casi todo se realiza mediante computadoras. Comprender la manera en que funcionan los equipos ayuda a resolver los problemas.

Mary Ann está actualmente jubilada. Saca a pasear a su boxer Lucy por la mañana y por la tarde, cuida de su nieta una vez a la semana después de la escuela y viaja cuando tiene la oportunidad. ¿Su consejo sobre la jubilación? «Asegúrate de tener suficientes ingresos para vivir y un pasatiempo», concluye.


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