JEDilworth bactitech at nospamhortonsbay.com
Wed May 8 19:24:09 EST 2002

I was shown the "flame the mouth of the tube" technique while in
college. When in training, I noticed that no one did that. When I asked
why, the techs looked at me like I was from Mars and said there was no
reason for it and that it just ended up burning your hands, so I've
never ever done it since college.

Your point is well taken - if there's no money to pay the techs a decent
wage, then there's no money to graduate into commercially available
media and/or better tubes and closures. 

We also use the no-heat ZN method for staining AFB, as our safety
officer would probably die a thousand deaths than have us using open
flames in the lab. I know of only one bunsen burner in use in our brand
new lab (built in the last two years). The only one that uses it that I
know of is our Ph.D. microbiologist who is in his 60's and has been
working there over 30 years. All the techs use enclosed incinerators
(non-foot pedal types) that have a switch to turn them off and on.

We had bunsens that you leaned on with the heel of your hand at the
hospital I used to work at (that closed in '96). When you leaned on them
the flame got bigger, and when you let go the flame returned to its
pilot light status. You always had to be careful not to get your
worksheets near it.

We are now fully paperless and enter all our workups directly into the
computer. Labels are generated to label the plates at setup, and paper
requisitions do come down with the specimens from the floor, but that's
the only paper we handle. When over 300 specimens a day come in, the
paper shuffle would be a nightmare otherwise. I daresay that paperless
micro is the best thing ever invented. You don't have to keep your
plates in any kind of order and can sort through them at will. You can
get your no growths and minimal workups done and save the messy stuff to
concentrate on. You can send out reports with the flick of a couple of

We update our no growth blood cultures, acid fasts, and fungi using a
neat program in Sunquest called MNG. Any culture that does not have a
workup entered gets automatically updated to "no growth at ____ days"
when this program is used. We have a list we check off of on the first
week to make sure all new cultures are accounted for. After that, the
cultures are moved along by week and of course visually checked. If they
remain negative, MNG takes care of the interim reporting. When they are
old enough, and nothing has been entered, the cultures are automatically
finalized. We of course check overdues, etc. on a daily basis.

Yes, I'm glad we're not making media anymore. Three liters of hot
autoclaved agar is a pretty scary thing to handle. I always lived in
fear that the flask would crack. We were pretty backward and boiled
these on ring stands instead of electric plates, so they were pretty top
heavy. I can't imagine that our current safety officer would like that.

Judy Dilworth, M.T. (ASCP)

Graham Shepherd wrote:

 I read somewhere that it used to be a recommended technique to flame
the mouth of
> the tube with the bung still in, which must have led to lots of little
> fires...it would have been a pretty old book....
> Another example - doing ZN stains - our lab used a torch made of cotton wool
> with a twisted wire handle, dipped in methanol. Once you finished heating
> the slides, you extinguish the torch and put it in the rubbish bin. Only we
> didn't have bins, we had paper bags that fit into metal frames that slide
> out from under the bench.  And if your torch isn't quite out when it goes in
> the bag....
> Two of the things I retain from my years in the lab - fireproof fingers and
> the deep understanding that hot glassware looks EXACTLY like cold glassware.

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