The Mohs technician – a non-physician (often even a non-healthcare worker) – occupies a unique place in the medical pantheon.
The Mohs surgeon’s right hand must be as steady as the surgeon’s own, capable of working with the most minute wafers of tissue, just a cell or two thick. A natural tinkerer who can adjust a highly complicated machine whenever its temperamental temperament gets out of whack. A perfectionist whose urge for the precision can never be shaken by deadlines, fussy patients, or cranky docs who just want to get out of here already.
At a Mohs surgery training course, sponsored by the American Society of Mohs Surgeons, I learned first-hand (no pun intended) about what the tech brings to this fascinating area of surgery.
Alexander Lutz, the owner of Travel Tech Mohs Services, Inc., Carson, Calif., put it well during his talk on the issue: “It’s a rare relationship between and physician and non-physician, even more so than a surgeon with his surgical nurse or tech. The nurse might be helping the surgeon, but you aren’t depending on them to complete the surgery. With a Mohs technician, you are.”
A physician who wants to learn Mohs surgery can choose to hire and train a formally educated lab tech or histotechnician – or pick a staff person to train. It can be a nurse or medical assistant, or even the office manager.
Mr. Lutz gave some pointers on picking the right trainee. Two characteristics are key: manual dexterity and a perfectionist personality. “In my experience, good Mohs techs have these things in common. I always ask if they have a hobby that shows dexterity-like knitting, musical instruments, or even juggling.”
And though the perfectionist personality part might drive the doc nuts in a personal relationship, it will serve both well in the surgical suite. The success of Mohs surgery – and even the life of a human being – depends on those beautiful clear margins. The surgeon can only create those margins if there are plenty of beautiful slides to guide the surgery. And only a dedicated, skilled technician can make those beautiful slides.
— Michele G. Sullivan (on Twitter @MGSullivan)