“The Remote Microbiologist”

I have been doing some work from home during the New Zealand COVID-19 lockdown period.

With 6 children, 4 cats and a dog at home, this is not always easy! I barricade myself in one of the bedrooms (no office), put a sign on the door (see above), put on some headphones to dull the screams and yells outside, and get down to work…

Clinical microbiologists can do a good proportion of their work remotely. Any work that involves sitting in front of a computer or attending meetings can be done at home with the right equipment. I would say this comprises about 80% of my total workload.

The other 20%, such as reviewing culture plates and Gram stains, familiarisation with new testing platforms, performing AMS ward rounds, infection control ward reviews, and giving educational presentations require me to be either in the lab or hospital. With the digitalisation of culture images (Kiestra TLA) and Gram stains, this percentage may well decrease even further. We do have the Kiestra TLA in our lab, I just need to organise remote viewing…

I think the 80/20 breakdown of remote/in-house work is realistic.

We convince ourselves that we always need to be “present” in the workplace. But for clinical microbiologists this is just not the case. Of course it is nice to talk to and meet people face to face but it is not absolutely necessary to be physically in the lab every day. And I have lost count of how many times I have driven 1 or 2 hours just to meet with people who I could have spoken to via teleconference/videoconference.

Being an introvert, I must admit I am not a huge fan of teleconferences and videoconferences. I need those non-verbal signals that one can only pick up from being face to face. But I must say I have started to get used to them. When you are doing 2 or 3 Zoom (or similar) meetings a day, you have no choice in the matter really.

So I think when the lockdown in NZ finishes, the new “normal” will likely not be as before. I will have a lower threshold for working from home when I don’t absolutely need to be at the workplace (also saving precious time on the commute), I will think twice about driving long distances for meetings and I will try and continue to embrace videoconferencing technologies.

And all the children will be back at school so I will get some peace!


What do other clinical microbiologists think?

7 thoughts on ““The Remote Microbiologist”

  1. Totally agree. I think we all need to rethink where our real value lies. But worry about how we keep the relationships with clinical teams. Possibly more time hanging out in the mess just chatting too.

    1. Yes, building that trust is really important, and in my experience, takes years. I think clinical trust also enhanced when they can put a face to a name on the report. Thanks for comment, sorry I am so slow at replying!

      1. Michael, can i retweet this? Or have you re-posted yr march ‘Covid19 downunder’ perspectives on’Covid19′ (international) in Jun/July and i missed it. Its so good /prescient that a repost is good idea from ‘the looking back’ NZ perspective, i reckon.

  2. Congratulation on human and animal nuber!!!
    I am vet and bacteriologist and I follow your articles with great pleasure.
    All the best

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