Under the Hood

I like to keep some humor in the lab so when I see a technologist with a panel off a machine trying to troubleshoot an issue I will say “Uh-Oh, why do you have the hood up?” It’s a little tension breaker, especially if they are stressing about having their instrument down. It also acts as a little reset button so I can go through the troubleshooting steps with them. As technologists, we are modern day mechanics. We use instruments much more than we perform manual testing, and we are expected to be able to troubleshoot instruments that are more complex than the current day automobile.

Acquiring new instrumentation can be a lab changing experience. Each instrument has its quirks and special requirements. The vendors usually offer on site or even off site training for staff once the instrument is purchased. Who you send to these training sessions is just as important as the quality of training they receive. These sessions are where your staff will learn maintenance, operation, and most importantly troubleshooting. When your shiny new analyzer goes down, and it will, the time it takes to get it back up and running affects productivity, turnaround time, and staff morale. Nothing is more detrimental to a staff’s morale then coming into work and the first thing they hear is that the instrument they are on that day is already down. Having experienced that exact thing I can tell you it takes the wind right out of you.If it happens consistently you will see a decreased engagement by staff.

Whom should you send for analyzer training? You should have a good mix of talent and maybe some of the lower performing staff. This assures that you are keeping your talented staff engaged and shows weaker performers that you are invested in building them into a top performer. The question becomes, how do I make sure that the people I send get the most out of their experience? Let them know they will be responsible for presenting the material they learned to the rest of the staff once they get back from training. If any of your staff have an issue with that they are not the ones you should send. These small presentations will help with team building as well as solidifying the information for the key operator.

As leaders we must pick our key operators very carefully. When these choices become important is most likely when we won’t be in the office. Observe the staff that likes to troubleshoot instruments or that keep a level head once instruments are down. You want to make sure that once the hood goes up you have the best mechanic for the job.

-Matthew Herasuta

4 thoughts on “Under the Hood”

  1. I can remember back in my earlier days as a Med Tech, we got a new chemistry analyzer to replace the two Kodak 250’s we had. We got a Dade RXL. I can remember being told when it was time to send folks to training that I was “non-essential” personnel, and would have to wait to go at a later time. I did get the 2 hour “50 cent” tour of the instrument though.

    I can remember the first time it broke down the two women that were sent to the school because they were considered “essential” personnel, couldn’t get it up to work with tech support on the phone. I came into work, the phone was handed to me, and those 2 women left me with a bum instrument and only 2 hours of familiarization to troubleshoot the instrument with tech support on the phone. I had it up and running in 20 minutes.

  2. Gail you describe a situation which I feel happens far too often. I try to emphasize to the new technologists that going to these training sessions are important to the entire lab, and that they will be a resource for information when troubleshooting instrument issues. It also reiterates the importance of who is sent to be trained. Thanks for the comment!

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