Some suggestions for ways to provide orientation instructions for the embedding histologist:
- Agree as a department (histology staff, supervisors, pathologists' assistants, and pathologists) how you are going to identify and "flag" those specimens needing special orientation.
- Clearly indicate and seek to standardize, as much as possible, inking patterns and methods of submission for punch, shave, skin ellipse, and tiny lumen specimens.
- Realize that most histologists will relate the directions given in instructions to the block face.
- It is helpful to make embedding procedures and protocols as specific as possible, with diagrams that show orientation, arrangement in the block, and other details as the standard operating procedures (SOPs).
- Define what instructions such as "on edge," "up or down," or "on its side," will mean in your laboratory. This is something that is easy to misinterpret and can mean different things in different laboratories and situations.
- Train histologists to use the embedding log worksheet and your laboratory information system (LIS), so that they are able to easily find information such as tissue types, number of fragments, and number/letter designations of blocks submitted to histology.
- Make sure everyone is clear and "on the same page" to save a lot of frustration and possible loss of an irretrievable specimen due to miscommunication and misunderstanding.