Tag Archives: kiestra TLA

“Too much information…”

Sorry I have not a chance over the last few weeks to post anything. I have been too busy following other people’s agendas….

The Kiestra TLA audit trails are really quite amazing in their detail. You can track down where every plate is at any time throughout the whole culture process. Because everything is automated and digital, more or less everything has an audit trail. There is no hiding place for anything, or anyone.

The accreditation agencies love it…

And you can even view how many plates an individual staff member reads per hour, every hour of the day. You could even hazard a guess at when they went to have a coffee.

Too much information perhaps…?

Everybody works at their own pace in the laboratory. Some people are naturally fast, some people are naturally slow.

That’s ok.

Some people like to have a chat between samples, and some people like to daydream. Some people even like to go for a wander every 10 minutes.

…and that’s ok as well.

The point being that to try and force people to work harder or faster is almost always both unsuccessful and counterproductive.

It is all about trust. If you trust people to do a job to the best of their ability, then the vast majority will.

It is a bit like those companies who have recently adopted a policy to give unlimited annual leave to their employees. What seems illogical at first glance actually works very well. Most people will work a sufficient number of weeks to provide benefit to their employer, whilst taking enough annual leave to both retain their sanity and have sufficient time with their family.

So I don’t care how many plates person X reads per hour. I have absolutely no interest in it whatsoever. What I do care about is that they are happy, and they are able to produce quality results.

Some audit information is best just ignored…


“Reinventing yourself”

In the next generation (20-25 years), the diagnostic microbiology laboratory workforce will be decimated worldwide.

If you are a student, they don’t tell you that at the careers fair…

“You sound like exactly the sort of person we are looking for. Come and “train” for four years in a lecture theatre, and then work in a clinical microbiology laboratory, that is if you are lucky enough to get a job. Unless your Mum and Dad are well off, you will accrue a hefty debt which will likely take you a couple of decades to pay off. However in 20 years time your job will probably not even exist…”

Am I being too harsh?

In terms of general culture based bacteriology, most of it will have gone molecular. Whatever is left of it will be automated, not just partially automated as with the current Kiestra TLA system, but completely automated to include plate interpretation, colony picking, identification, antibiotic susceptibility testing and rule based signout. The whole works…

Most microbiology samples will never touch a laboratory worker’s hands.

Molecular testing will have increased, but on highly automated platforms, processing high volumes of work, with minimum manual input.

Our work will be reduced to oddities and troubleshooting. I would even chance to say that there will be just as many engineers as microbiologists on the laboratory floor.

And then I look at the core components of my own job..

  • Authorising important results:- This will be done automatically using sophisticated rules based computer algorithms. And they will do it much better than I can.
  • Giving antibiotic advice:- Decision support apps downloaded on clinicians’ smartphones will do this more sensibly than me.
  • Laboratory Management:- I fear there will be nobody left in the lab to manage…
  • Demand management:- Although the process of demand management will be performed by software algorithms, there might still be a little work left for me regarding the initiation and governance of such projects.
  • Anti-microbial stewardship:- Anti-microbial resistance is not going away anytime soon so there may be a continuing role in the governance of such programmes. But the nuts and bolts will be highly automated and app-based.

So I am not overly optimistic about my own long term future. No one is immune…

I am fortunate to be attending the ECCMID conference at Vienna in April. It is no accident I will be heavily focusing on presentations in molecular diagnostics and demand management. That should help in the short term at least in securing my usefulness. However it is entirely possible I will need to retrain in something completely different before I am done.

I know my job description as a clinical microbiologist will change out of all recognition before I retire. It is not impossible that clinical microbiology as a career entity will cease to exist altogether.

We need to be constantly looking at what we do today, then imagining what we will potentially be doing tomorrow, and preparing for it as best we can…


“The Microbiology Sabbatical”

I am looking to take a sabbatical from work next year and I am currently trying to work out what shape or form such a break might take…

From a microbiological point of view, I am keen to either do locum work in, or observe a few other clinical microbiology laboratories. We always get lulled into thinking “our way is the only way” in the microbiology laboratory, which is clearly not the case. I want to experience other Kiestra TLAs to ascertain what they do differently and whether further improvements and efficiencies can be made. I am also keen to visit  a few other molecular departments to see how to maximise clinical impact from new molecular technology.

Needless to say a good proportion of my sabbatical will be nothing to do with microbiology! I have always wanted to do an intensive French language course at the Sorbonne University in Paris. I will make sure that is part of my sabbatical programme.

I am also keen to do some travelling. I have never visited Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, etc. before, so I foresee another (mad) road trip for the family coming up!

I am not sure how much time it will take me to fit all the above in, probably 3 months minimum. I will need to start saving hard!

I suspect I am the type of person that will be “forced” to take a sabbatical from work every few years. For the things I want to do in my life, a few weeks holiday a year doesn’t quite cut it.

Employers are becoming more and more amenable to sabbaticals these days. As well as saving on your wages for a while, they know they are likely to get a rejuvenated and refreshed employee back in return.

Win, win…

Day to day work in the clinical microbiology laboratory can be fairly monotonous and dull. Arriving at the same bench or office space day after day, month after month, year after year, can slowly but surely grind you down. Everyone should at least consider a sabbatical in order to renew themselves. The duration obviously depends on what you can afford and what you plan to do.

Don’t assume you have to work 10 or 20 years in the one place in order to “earn” a sabbatical. This is nonsense. Also don’t think that your sabbatical needs to be microbiological in nature. In fact it might even be better if it isn’t…

Are you thinking of taking a sabbatical?

If not, why not? You only live once.

Can’t afford it? I bet you can if you put your mind to it.

Scared to ask for one? Don’t be, you may well find yourself pleasantly surprised…