Tag Archives: repetitive tasks


One of the downsides of bigger and more centralised microbiology laboratories (and the consequent large volumes) is that you may find yourself doing the same task for prolonged periods of time.

Depending on where you work (and more and more of us work in such institutions), this might be anything from aliquotting urines, pipetting micro-titre plates, looking at Gram stains, putting up samples, plate reading, signing out results, etc, etc…

…And if you are doing repetitive tasks for a prolonged period, it can be easy to become bored and disillusioned. There is also the risk of losing concentration and making mistakes.

What is the answer?

Here are a few options:

  • A high degree of bench rotation. (even on a day to day and hour to hour basis)
  • A culture of the “quiet” benches helping the “busy” benches.
  • Frequent breaks
  • Automate what can be automated.

Whatever you do in the field of microbiology or infection, there will always be some degree of tedium in your work, but it should not be the dominant part of your work. High volume laboratories need to be extremely wary of this.

So if you are a bored microbiologist, you need to let your boss know and do something about it!


“Repetitive task Syndrome”

You have probably heard a lot about “Repetitive Strain Injury” (RSI), but what about “Repetitive Task Syndrome” ?

In the setting of the microbiology laboratory we often need to carry out tasks that are highly repetitive, whether it is plating out samples, reading cultures, reading Gram stains, performing EIAs/PCRs, signing out results etc etc.

So what might the symptoms be of such a syndrome? An excessive amount of repetition might lead to boredom, low morale, depression, or introversion. It might also suppress innovative thinking.

In contrast to repetitive strain injury, where symptoms are physical and come on over days to weeks, with repetitive task syndrome the effects are potentially more psychological and their effects are more likely to appear over months, even years.

I am only speculating here but I suspect that such a syndrome exists. It just hasn’t been given a name yet….

However there is light at the end of the tunnel! Bacteriology automation systems with associated interpretative software should eventually see an end to a lot of the manual repetition that currently occurs in microbiology laboratories, leaving only the interesting, odd and unusual for manual input, and ensuring much more variety during the average working day.

Until then I think we need to ensure that we as microbiologists do not perform repetitive tasks for prolonged periods, just in case my theory of “Repetitive Task Syndrome” turns out to be true……

I also have a mantra that states that for any task which is done repetitively by someone, there is probably a better, different, or easier way of doing it..