Shadowing a Doctor

December 30, 2013

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A pathologist is a physician that is highly trained in different investigational techniques necessary for diagnosing and treating a wide range of diseases by determining the causes of the symptoms and the nature of the progression. This is done by performing a variety of physical, biological and chemical experiments and analysing microscopic specimen tissue, bodily fluids, and cells.

As a pathologist, you can choose to sub-specialise in several different kinds of pathology, including:

  • Molecular genetic pathology
  • Blood banking/transfusion medicine
  • Medical microbiology
  • Neuropathology
  • Haematology
  • Paediatric pathology
  • Chemical pathology
  • Dermatopathology
  • Forensic pathology
  • Cytopathology

Some of the job functions of a pathologist could include:

  • Consulting with physicians to order tests and the interpretation of the results
  • Diagnosing infections such as AIDS and Hepatitis B by testing for antibodies that are made in the body to fight off infections
  • Writing up pathology reports that summarize the results, analysis and conclusions.
  • Performing autopsies to determine the cause of death
  • Conducting genetic analysis of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in order to diagnose biopsies and cell samples
  • Performing biopsies and FNAs (fine need aspirations) of superficial nodules
  • Testifying in depositions as an expert witness

Pathologists work in hospitals, wards, private practices offices, in research institutions or in the lab or teaching. Most pathologists work regular 40 hour weeks, and while many pathologists work in rotating shifts they still have more free time than most other physician specialties. In many instances, pathologists act as part of a patient’s medical team.

Training Requirements

To become a medical pathologist, you must complete 4 years of med school, after which you will have to do a 3 to 4-year exacting residency program in pathology. The duration of the program depends on what area you choose to train in. If you intend doing just clinical or anatomic pathology it will be three years and if you wanted a combined training of both it will be four years. If you choose to sub-specialise in one of the areas mentioned earlier, you’ll need to also complete an additional year of fellowship training or two years if you want to go into neuropathology.

What is important to remember is that you have study to first be a doctor, a dentist or a vet before you can become a pathologist. There is absolutely no other way. Forensic science degrees and biomedical sciences degrees don’t help – you still have to become a medical doctor first!

Pathologist Salary

The average annual salary of pathologists in the UK is £58,990. This varies depending on the number of years of experience as well as the healthcare facility you choose to work in.

Career Outlook

The employment outlook for medical professionals in any specialty is very good and there is expected to be a boom in the demand for physicians and surgeons. This expected boom is also true for pathologists as they are highly trained and continually improving their skills and abilities to be used in a broader range of ways. Competition tends to be more apparent when looking for professor jobs, but there are almost always opportunities available in hospital and research university labs.


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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.