My Guide to the RSPH Level 3 Diploma in Healthcare Science (Anatomical Pathology Technology)

The RSPH (Royal Society for Public Health) Level 3 Diploma in Healthcare Science (Anatomical Pathology Technology) is the qualification which is studied by Trainee APTs in order to become a qualified APT (Anatomical Pathology Technologist). This course is recommended to be started after around 1 year of beginning a trainee position and takes at least 18 months to complete (it does take longer in a number of cases, especially if during a pandemic!). I have had quite a few questions and requests to discuss the Diploma in more detail in comments or on Twitter, so I will do my best to answer the questions here.

I began my training in 2019 and I attended face to face classes in North Tees which is where the main training centre is located. By the end of 2019 I had completed all my of assignments and exams, with just the portfolio and practical exam to be done. The pandemic did impact this and some of it was delayed due to the feasibility of assessors travelling and attending other facilities. However, since this point all of the training now has shifted to online, delegates are able to sit their exams within their own workplaces but practical assessments are still completed with assessors. I expect this may change again at some point but for now all the learning is taking place over Zoom.

There are ten modules in total which need to be completed for the Level 3 Diploma and they are as follows –

  • Human anatomy and physiology for anatomical pathology technologists
  • Governance and administration of mortuary practices
  • Health and safety in the mortuary
  • Microbiology and infection control for anatomical pathology technologists
  • Principles of effective communication for anatomical pathology technologists
  • Preparation and operation of a mortuary
  • Prepare for post mortem examinations
  • Assist with post mortem examinations
  • Viewing of the deceased
  • Team working

The first five of these modules are assessed by a combination of exams and assignments, some modules requiring only an assignment or two, others requiring only examinations or both. The assignments are generally essay based but there is the potential to have something more creative, such as when I did my diploma I had to create a floor plan of my mortuary for my Health & Safety assignment. Generally the course content does remain the same year to year, but there is always the possibility it can change or be updated as things develop and improve.

The training itself is five sessions which are comprised of lectures or seminars (webinars) with various training leads who go through the topics. There is a fabulous website to support all of the training which can be accessed anywhere, and contains all the information and more than you need to pass the course. The website forms also the place where assignments can be submitted and results are found. As well as the five learning days, there are also five revision days available in that time where sessions are held to ask any questions and go over any topics for the exams.

Once the exams and learning sessions are over, there is a few months until the portfolio needs to be submitted, this is comprised of the other five modules and is all evidence based work made up of a mixture of witness statements, reflective statements and other forms of evidence. There is a great guide on the website as to what types of evidence or examples that can be used, and this evidence can (and should) be started to be collected at the start of the course rather than after the exams are finished if you want to make your life easier. It can be a little tricky to figure out how to get your evidence to support the different competencies you are trying to prove you can do, but once you’ve done one module the others fall into place a little easier.

The final practical assessment is a day, or two, where an assessor will visit and watch you work. They need to see you cover a lot of the difference aspects so it needs to be a day when post mortems are being completed. The assessors are great at putting you at ease, and it’s important to remember that they aren’t there to catch you out, just to make sure that you have covered all the different requirements and will pass. Anything you haven’t demonstrated in your portfolio or in the day can be discussed and as long as you show you understand the processes or reasons why then you will be fine.

After the practical all of the different parts of the course are signed off and then verified by an external assessor. Only then is the final approval given for a pass and you later receive your certificate. Certificates were always given out at the AAPT Conference (now knows as the Annual Education Event) previously to the pandemic but sadly mine was posted to me!

I can appreciate this is a lot to get your head around, and perhaps some of this did not make a whole lot of sense to anyone outside of the APT world. There is a lot of information to get through and I don’t like to make my blog posts too long (unless I get carried away!). What I would say is, if you are interested and have any questions, or are a lucky trainee APT either about to start the course or are on the course, and you have any questions then please DO get in contact with me via my contact page. I am more than happy to help in any way I can, and go into way more detail than I have here.

MG x

P.S. the cover image of myself in front of the Hartlepool Monkey is related to my Level 3 diploma I promise! When we visit there to study it was considered lucky to pay him a visit. I went religiously each time, even once in the freezing rain.

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