Tips for Microbiology Scientists working on the Bacteriology Benches: (Part II)
See also Tips for Microbiology Scientists (Part I)
1) Know when to ask for help
This is one I regard as critical in ensuring the production of quality results. If someone in your department has particular expertise on a particular organism or antibiogram, don’t be too proud or too afraid to use this expertise (even if they are more junior than you in the “pecking order”). They can often put you on the right course for a speedy and correct result, with ultimate benefit to the patient.
2) Take frequent breaks
Bench bacteriology is demanding and sometimes repetitive work. I am a big believer in short and frequent breaks. Don’t be afraid to take a few minutes out after a certain amount of time or a certain amount of plates. Struggling on until the “official” break may lead to mistakes being made. Negotiate with your manager if he/she doesn’t like this approach. I think you will find you will win. Everybody has different work patterns and works at different speeds. Categorisng everybody into the same work mode is neither helpful nor productive.
3) Rotate and refresh.
If you are spending too long on one particular bench, then ask to rotate. “Bench fatigue” leads to mistakes as well as a de-skilling in the other benches, and is not desirable for the department as a whole. It is my belief that no-one should spend more than 3 months on any one bench before moving on. The de-skilling aspect of bench fatigue makes subsequent rostering more difficult and a vicious circle is set up.
4) Document everything, and with respect.
A lot of labs have now moved to paperless audit trails and this is good. However it is important to remember that even your electronic documentation serves as a legal document which is potentially viewable by lawyers, clinicians and even the patient, in the case of any dispute. Ensure that your documentation is brief but thorough and that it represents a reproducible record of the work done on the sample, when and by whom. It is very important not to criticise the patient, the requestor or any of your colleague’s previous work in such documentation. Such negative comments reflect poorly on the author and are ultimately unproductive.
5) Find out People’s Names.
When phoning a result to the ward, it is very important to first elucidate who you are speaking to, their designation, and ensure they are qualified and appropriate to receive the result. When the result has been given it is equally as important to document this and also to document who you have spoken to so that the audit trail can be created. The same applies if the laboratory is receiving an incoming telephone request for extended incubation, extra susceptibilities etc. It can be very frustrating, not to mention potentially dangerous not to know who the person is on the other end of the phone….