Working life (MMV)

This page provides useful information about the roles and responsibilities of specialists in acute internal medicine, where they work, who they work with and what they feel about their role.

"I became a microbiologist because I could relate basic science to findings in the clinical laboratory, and use this to determine what was happening to individual patients. Furthermore, I help ensure patients are effectively treated, which is immensely rewarding." (Consultant microbiologist)

A typical day might begin with a handover from the microbiology doctor, who has been on call the previous night. Cases dealt with on call may include new admissions with septic shock or meningitis, or patients on intensive care (or haematology units) whose condition has deteriorated overnight. 

Laboratory staff will then provide the results of cultures of blood and sterile fluids that have become positive overnight. Urgent and important results are communicated directly to clinical colleagues through visits to the intensive care unit and other relevant wards or via telephone. Microbiologists provide advice regarding the interpretation of results and the appropriateness of further investigations and antibiotic treatment.

Intensive care units have high rates of antibiotic use, and members of the microbiology team usually visit these units on a daily basis. Microbiologists regularly attend multidisciplinary meetings with colleagues from specialties that also deal with large numbers of patients with infections, such as paediatrics and haematology.   

Telephone enquiries from hospital colleagues and GPs continue throughout the working day. Further significant results arising during the day are communicated with clinical staff if urgent, and advice regarding appropriate management is given. Microbiologists communicate daily with hospital-infection-control staff to minimise the risks of cross-infection between patients.   

Trainees are able to discuss the interpretation of results and subsequent appropriate advice on antibiotic use with their microbiology consultants during the day and via telephone when on call overnight.  

Multidisciplinary meetings are also a regular part of the working week, which are used for clinical discussions and to formulate antibiotic and infection control policies and emergency preparedness plans. Laboratory management and outbreak investigation meetings are also part of the work.

Out-of-hours commitments are relatively light, and on-call is often undertaken from home.

This specialty is mainly based in the laboratory, but ward rounds, ITU units and outpatient clinics are also part of working life.

The EU Working Time Directive limits the working week to 48 hours. It is also possible to work part-time once you are consultant, or to train on a less than full-time basis (conditions apply).

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