Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Pathologists’ assistants, an essential healthcare workforce: the experience of a surgical pathology department in Italy


Aims The progressive increase of both the workload and the complexity of laboratory procedures, along with shortage of staff, has made evident the need to increase the efficiency in the pathology departments. To support the pathologists, a new technical professional role, the pathologists’ assistant (PA), has been introduced.

Methods We decided to carry out a retrospective analysis on PAs’ performance. This was compared with that of junior/senior pathologists in the amount and type of surgical specimens examined, the number of lymph node retrieved in colorectal resections, the number of cases needing a second grossing procedure and the average time spent in grossing. As the COVID-19 pandemic period in fact resulted in a dramatic reduction of histological cases in our department, we divided PA activities into two periods, according to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Results ‘Simple’ specimens made up the majority (92%) of the specimens examined by PAs in pre-COVID-19 period while ‘complex’ specimens, often neoplastic, represented the minor part (7%). However, ‘simple’ specimens dropped to 81% and ‘complex’ specimens rose to 18% in the COVID-19 period, when PAs had the chance to test themselves with more complicated surgical samples, under the supervision of a pathologist. Lymph node retrieval rate and average time spent in grossing are in line with literature data and confirm that PAs performance is comparable with pathologists’ one, in selected settings.

Conclusion In our experience, PA has represented a fundamental time-saving resource for the pathologists, who can devote time almost exclusively to diagnostic reporting.

  • pathology
  • surgical
  • pathology department
  • hospital
  • anatomy

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request.

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.