Microbiology In Action

by Lorien E. Menhennett

I voluteered yesterday morning and had a new experience there, which was pretty interesting: the convergence of microbiology and clinical work. A woman came in having been treated the previous week for a urinary tract infection (UTI), but her symptoms had returned. The nurse practitioner I was working with thought based on the symptoms that it sounded more like a yeast infection than a UTI. (I had to look up the word for “yeast” in Spanish – levadura.)

So the nurse practitioner decided to take a vaginal swab and prepare a slide to look at under the clinic’s lab microscope. I had no idea the clinic’s lab even had a microscope … I suppose it’s an obvious thing, but I never thought about it, since I don’t really go in there. The nurse practitioner prepared the slide with two specimen samples, and a drop of saline on one of the samples and a drop of potassium hydroxide on the other. I, of course, asked whether I could go with her to look at the slides in the lab. She’s one of my favorite practitioners at the clinic, and I work with her a lot, so she was quite willing.

We slipped the slide under the microscope, and lo and behold, yeast cells. Of course, I spent lots of time in Biology I and II last year looking at slides under the microscope, but obviously never in the clinical context. So it was really neat to be able to actually diagnose something using the same scientific tool we had used in class. Very rewarding.