What are Lab Techs Stressed out About: A Story for Lab Automation
If you have ever worked in any type of laboratory you probably look back at the experience and smile with the caveat of knowing that it was probably the most labor-intensive environment for both mind and body (probably soul as well!). Not only are you on your feet for 10+ hours a day, but the mental capacity a person needs to multi-task, perform very technical but highly repetitive skills, and manage various stages of projects is so much bigger than a hiring manager probably understands. Don’t forget to layer on the responsibility of protecting millions of consumers by accurately performing a PCR test for foodborne pathogens with a time crunch for results to release products faster. No big deal, just a bit of stress right?
Protect your Highly Valued Resource
I bet you didn’t know that over one-third of workers are injured or have prolonged disabilities caused by poor ergonomics and mental stress (OSHA). Laboratory employees are a highly valued resource, now more than ever, and preventing time away from work, surgeries and medical bills for technicians should be a priority. The results of poor ergonomic practices in the lab do not show up today, but they will have effects tomorrow if we don’t pay attention to them.
As a technician in a previous life, I always dreaded being assigned to do prep work because it meant I needed to sit in one place and do the same task over and over again to fulfill the high throughput needs of the lab. In a perfect world, that would have been my only task. But we all know that’s not how it works. As I prepped, I needed to check on some plates coming out of the incubator, then start some media on the heat plate, remember to take some tubes off the heat block, don’t let the media over boil, load the autoclave again, and maybe take a bathroom break at some point. If you don’t feel stressed with all those “easy” tasks, let’s go visit a lab together and do some volunteer work 😊.
Working with Automation Makes a Great Lab Experience
Automating simple tasks like filling lysis buffer and BHI regrowth tubes can reduce mental strain seen when doing repetitive and monotonous activities that can lead to human error and unknown mistakes. Labs can gain a 2- to 3-fold improvement in precision and reduce labor costs 2-fold by automating a process.
What’s great about a lab environment, is you are always becoming the next expert and you get to do the more technical portions of testing like PCR hydration, culture confirmations, or data analysis. On top of those tasks usually, you also become the go-to person in the lab for questions as well. I don’t know how many times I have been in the middle of transferring a super small volume of sample into lysis buffer or hydrate PCR tablets and someone walks up and asks a question. Immediate distraction activated! Of course, I have the answer, but now I have no clue if I added the sample or not or which row I’m on. Ultimately, I’m not going to risk the unknown, so I trash the tubes and start from the top again. With automation, the majority of the “simple” tasks and easily avoidable errors could have been avoided.
Although I loved my experience of learning the hard way, today’s world already has enough stress so if you want to lighten the mental and physical strain on a technician seriously think about adding an automation platform that fits your team’s needs.
Are you looking for ways to ensure your lab techs are less stressed? Hygiena’s Prep Xpress is an affordable, small footprint, automated liquid handling platform that reduces technician labor while increasing pipetting accuracy and reliability. Learn how Prep Xpress’ high throughput workflow empowers autonomy for other laboratory tasks while improving efficiency and consistency of routine solution preparation.
Meet the Author
April Englishbey is the Global Product Manager for Hygiena Molecular Diagnostics and resides in Houston, TX. April’s industry experience began during her time at Texas Tech University while gaining her Ph.D. in molecular and applied food microbiology. Connect with April to learn more!