“There are things known, and things unknown, and in between are the Doors (of perception).”
The quote above probably originates from Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek of “The Doors” rock group. The quote and the naming of the band was likely heavily influenced by Aldous Huxley and his famous 1954 work “The Doors of Perception.”, recounting his experiences with mescaline.
So what does all this have to do with microbiology?
Whilst Morrison, Huxley and co. were probably much more interested in the drug connotations of the philosophy, it is interesting to look at how the deeper meaning can be applied to microbiology.
I think the concept of applying factual knowledge (the lab result) to what can generally never be known for sure (the clinical diagnosis of the patient) requires a certain degree of perception on behalf of the clinician/requestor of the test.
One clinician may perceive the result in a completely different way to another. For example, a Staphylococcus aureus isolated from one blood culture bottle after 36 hrs incubation may be treated by one clinician as significant and start the patient on 2 wks of IV antibiotics. Another may view it as a contaminant and discharge the patient home. Quite a difference…
I think we need to realise the power that we have as laboratorians to alter the perception of a result, in the way that we report it, the comments that we add to it, and the means in which it is communicated and to whom.
This alteration of perception by the laboratory can have either a positive or negative effect. We just need to appreciate how powerful the messages we give out from the laboratory are, and the mind-altering effects they can have on the clinician…