Introducing… a microbiology supervisor
Deborah Johnson is a microbiology supervisor at the Hamilton Regional Laboratory Medicine Program (HRLMP). She has worked at HHS for 10 years.
Favourite colour: pink/ book: Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, David Eagleman/ vacation spot: Rome/ music: July Talk/ animal: cats/ food: chocolate/ holiday: any summer holiday
What made you enter your field of work? I really enjoyed studying human anatomy and physiology in school. It always amazes me how finely tuned and interconnected the different organ systems are and how disease in one area can affect the rest of the body. I also love the visual aspect of culturing and identifying micro-organisms that cause human disease.
“I always keep the provision of accurate and timely lab results my top priority.”
What are your favourite ways to spend your free time? I spend as much time as possible at my local indoor climbing gym. When I am there, the physical and mental challenge of climbing, plus the camaraderie of my friends there, energizes me.
Describe your most challenging days at work. Challenging days are those in which there are not enough hours to accomplish everything that needs to be done! I always keep the provision of accurate and timely lab results (patient safety) my top priority. Once those tasks are completed I juggle operational issues related to staff recruitment, scheduling, workflow processes, communication with clients for 18 different hospital sites, accreditation, investigating occurrences, and general problem solving.
Tell us about the HRLMP and microbiology teams. The entire microbiology department functions as a large team. Every single staff member plays an important role in maintaining a relevant service for patients. The microbiologists, infectious disease physicians, and technical specialists work collaboratively with laboratory staff. The manager of microbiology, John Korver, has been an invaluable mentor to me over the last 10 years. In his 46 years at HHS he has helped a countless number of microbiology staff develop their knowledge and expertise.
Our colleagues in the HRLMP Core and LRC laboratories have been extremely helpful in assisting microbiology manage an increased workload from external clients over the last few months. The HRLMP team members who oversee quality, education, safety, laboratory information systems, administrative support, project management, and client relationships have also been instrumental in supporting the microbiology lab during our rapid expansion.
“I would like to better understand the challenges my team faces every day in order to deliver quality patient results.”
When you tell people what you do, how do they usually react? Most of us medical laboratory staff work behind the scenes and do not directly interact with patients. Because of this, I think many people do not have a clear idea of the work that we do. From what I hear, most people assume all we do is collect blood samples while others assume we are the people they see on shows like CSI.
What do you wish you had more time for at work? I often find myself wishing that I had more time to sit at the lab bench and connect with the medical lab technologists and assistants. They work very hard processing microbiology samples and I would love to be on the floor with them more. I would like to better understand the challenges that they face every day in order to deliver quality patient results. I also would like to be able to spend time training students and new staff members.
Tell us about your most gratifying experiences at HHS. My most gratifying experiences are those where I feel that I have made a positive difference for patient care. These experiences can be as simple as assisting someone in ordering the correct test or ensuring that staff in the lab have the resources they need to do their job. When the Ebola outbreak became a concern 2 years ago, I was part of a small group of microbiologists, lab administrators, and infection control practitioners that worked to develop safe bio-containment processes. These processes were set up for procurement, handling, and processing lab samples from patients potentially infected with the Ebola virus. Being a part of such a unique experience was very gratifying.
What do you eat to keep you energized at work? I love those huge, chocolate chip oatmeal cookies that are baked on site at HGH. Sometimes, the smell of them baking wafts down the hall towards the labs and I can’t resist going to grab one.