Medical Scientists: Cytopathology

Wednesday 15 Dec 2021

HSUWA Member Melissa is a Medical Scientist specialising in Cytopathology.

Cytology is the process of examining cells, in particular, those found in Fine Needle Aspirates (FNA’s), fluid specimens (like pleural fluid or urine) and Pap smears. Cytology is primarily used to diagnose or screen for cancer and its precursors, but can be used to diagnose infectious organisms, benign diseases processes and diagnostic procedures.



There are 16 Medical Scientists specialising in Cytopathology in the metropolitan public sector at PathWest, who often receive over 250 samples per day.

Melissa explains, “I diagnose patient lesions, Pap smears and fluids with my microscope. Often 10 cases a day are malignant, and early detection means faster treatment and a better prognosis for our community.” 

Medical Scientists work across multiple locations and off site, and receive all of the samples retrieved from the public sector including the four major metropolitan hospitals and the WA Country Health Service.

Medical Scientists prepare a diagnostic report, which is sent onto a Pathologist to sign run ancillary tests, before it is sent back to the referring doctor or specialist.

Medical Scientists attend theatre to offer a Rapid On Site Evaluation (ROSE) service so that a sample can be taken and analysed while the patient is still undergoing surgery and treated accordingly. Many scientists are on-call overnight for urgent cases such as cerebrospinal fluid and ICU patients.

There can be pressure to return reports and samples in the shortest timeframe possible, so Medical Scientists are rigorous and efficient to ensure patients are not left waiting on potentially life changing test results.

The workload is always significant. Melissa has worked paid overtime every Saturday for the past month and continued her important work during COVID-19 outbreaks and preparation. 

Melissa outlined, “Scares and outbreaks have come and gone, but cancer is relentless.”

“Apart from the important job I do every day helping sick people get the treatment they need, I was at work when COVID hit. I went without hesitation as an essential worker, even though, I was scared about the serious medical repercussions to myself and my family.” 

“This dedication should be rewarded as it is for doctors, consultants and politicians.”

The $1,000 State Wages Cap has had significant impacts on Health Workers across the state.

Melissa said, “As I cannot afford to live closer to work, I travel one and a half hours to and from work every day then have to pay for parking. This makes my day a ten and a half hour day.” 

The next time you are waiting on important test results, think of the amazing work the WA’s Medical Scientists undertake.

 Along with colleagues across the Public Sector, the HSUWA is calling for a “wages floor” of a minimum pay rise of 4% per annum in the next Union Agreement.

WA Health Workers deserve a pay rise!

To join our campaign click here.

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