Improving collaboration between PH
microbiologists and epidemiologists
Yvan Hutin
Aftab Jasir
Collaboration between public health microbiologists
and epidemiologists
Is required for many investigations
May be difficult because of differences in:
Professional backgrounds
Knowledge and skills and abilities
Working methodologies and habits/attitute
Communication practices
May be improved by better communication
Objectives of the exercise
Identify what problems arise when PH microbiologists
work with epidemiologists
Identify communication difficulties that may cause
these problems
Improve communication and trust to resolve problems
and collaborate better
The 3 steps of the exercise
List practical problems that arise when PH
microbiologists work with epidemiologists
Microbiologists and epidemiologists sit apart
Identify what are the possible causes of the
Propose solutions involving both parties to the
problems identified in Step 1
1. List practical problems that arise when
microbiologists work with epidemiologists
• Make a list of the practical problems that may arise when:
• You work with PH microbiologists
(If you are a epidemiologist)
• You work with epidemiologists
(If you are a PH microbiologist)
• Sort these problems according to the options on the form
• Focus on practical problems
• Keep misunderstanding and attitude issues for later
Table to fill for epidemiologists
(1 difficulty only per category)
Organizational /
structural difficulties
Lab results come too late
Technical difficulties
We do not know how to
collect and send
The results are incomplete
Table to fill for PH microbiologists
(1 difficulty only per category)
Organizational /
structural difficulties
Microbiologists not
involved in protocol
Technical difficulties
Wrong specimens
Lack of details re:
The results are incomplete/ The information
given with specimen is insufficient
• Make sure the right specimen was sent
• Make sure the test requested was the right one
• Call the microbiologist to clarify what can be expected
• Get trained on communication with epidemiologists
• Clarify what test is required in that situation: Will be relevant /useful?
• Fill request forms so that microbiologists know what the problem is
• Work on the form together
• Get skilled at the other´s professional skills
How to collect and send specimens?
• Obtain protocols from microbiologists
• Establish contacts
• Work on the protocol together
• Teach the staff re: SOPs
• Simplify the laboratory protocols
• Ask and obtain guidance when needed
• Exchange contact information
• Make information accessible (e.g., Web)
• Establish personal connection
Microbiologists not involved in protocol
• Communicate
• Work as a team on protocols
Results come too late
• Establish communicate channels
• Find out when the results will be available
• Identify contact persons
• Understand that some tests take time / need referral
• Clarify why / whether the test is urgent
• Find out what network may be activated
• Get familiar with the schedule of the laboratory
• Have a date with a microbiologist
• Visit a lab, get trained
• Make attitudes evolve
• Speak the same language
Outcome of the exercise
• Difficulties occur
• Responsibilities are shared
• Joint efforts do resolve problems

Collaboration between epidemiologists and microbiologist