Life in the Lab – Senior Microbiologist aka “Microbiology Officer”

Part of my Life in the Lab Series.

Here I summarise what each of my scientific roles have entailed.

As a Microbiology Officer, what does the day entail?

08:30 hrs – Start shift

  • Check daily roster has been created
  • Examine handover notes from previous day and determine if any actions required
  • Check how everyone is going today
  • Determine what needs to be done in next two months and delegate
  • Control Schedule 8 Drugs (issue, receive and dispose) and ensure figures align
  • Conduct viable environmental monitoring of class 100 / 10 000 (A/B) / 100 000 (D) cleanrooms if short staffed
  • Spot check equipment calibration labels
  • Conduct sampling of WFI system if short staffed
  • Followup with other departments regarding on going projects
  • Update documentation or delegate and meet with subject matter experts
  • Check and signoff on environmental monitoring data (worksheets) or delegate
  • Ensure any followup sampling has been completed, if not find out why and reschedule

10:30hrs – 15 minute break

  • Check how everyone is going
  • Read and record viable environmental monitoring results if short staffed
  • Train staff in sampling techniques or delegate
  • Pursue special projects or delegate
  • Sign off on viable environmental monitoring data entered into LIMS system
  • Setup and conduct container closure testing
  • Assist the IT department with special projects (eg design and implementation of new LIMS database system)
  • Delegate the testing of “urgent samples”

12:30hrs – 45 minute lunch

  • Check how everyone is going
  • Off site training “Effective Supervisory Management” – couple of days a week for 12 weeks off site in support of this role when newly began
  • Meeting with production managers, supervisor and filling room staff as part of out of specification results investigation
  • Assist Laboratory Manager in management of Sterile Media Fill Trial schedule
  • Write investigation reports
  • Conduct investigative monitoring or delegate
  • Determine when to move new staff to the shifts they were employed to cover (eg night shift)
  • Determine when to “spice up things” and move people around task and responsibility wise

15:30hrs – 15 minute break

  • Check how everyone is going
  • Conduct special bacteriology projects
  • Ensure OH&S is being followed (this is a constant thing every time I enter then lab)
  • Continue tasks from earlier in the day
  • Issue updated documentation and train staff if training required
  • Determine if tasks scheduled for tomorrow
  • Determine if there is anything that needs the later afternoon shift or night shift to be aware of

17:00 – Depart for home

Thoughts about this role

I could have lead better and when the team did not perform to expectations, I tended to wield a stick rather than figure out what was going on.  This is the complete opposite of what would happen if a result was out of limit.  There, I’d investigate down to the root cause and determine appropriate corrective and preventative action.

This role was given the title of  Microbiology Officer.  I was mentored by the Sterility Supervisor and reported to the Laboratory Manager (my supervisor was on maternity leave).  I had two good deputies and oversaw 12 to 15 microbiologists working around to clock Monday to Friday and as needed on a Saturday.  Later in this role, the Laboratory Manager was ousted, a new Microbiology Supervisor installed and the company was sold to another.  This lead to fun times where most of the communication was reactionary,  morale fell and managers implied things without stating what they were getting at. At one point, everyone on the lab was made to apply for their jobs again.  I submitted an application for something better within the lab.  No response or feedback was given.   Thinking back, I think my manager thought I did nothing though I have recorded she loved my report writing.  My Effective Supervisory Management course taught that if something could be delegated, delegate it.  I became REALLY effective at that.

Towards the end of this role, I may have become a little negative towards management.  I stayed positive about my team though.

Good things came of this.  These days I value open communication, ensure I lead by example, push back on managers when they are unclear or unreasonable and manage expectations of internal and external customers better. I used to not question management at all and follow their lead regardless as they knew all.  I see now that is not the case. I’m also less inclined to look at someone’s qualifications when determining if they are suited to a role and am more interested in what they know and what they can (or would like to) do.

Roles Held

Microbiology TechnicianMicrobiology Analyst – Senior Microbiologist aka “Microbiology Officer” – Quality Assurance MicrobiologistNon Sterile Microbiology Team Leader