Age old Classical analysis techniques are being replaced by modern sophisticated instrumental analysis techniques in laboratories across the world. In order to use such instruments to their optimum capacity structured training is essential.
A new joinee in a laboratory, especially one fresh from university, has high ambitions and is keen to acquire knowledge about the organization, familiarize with the hierarchy and above all learn about new processes and analysis techniques.
As an accomplished trainer you have foremost responsibility of bringing the trainee into a comfort zone and help boost his or her confidence. Next you have to develop and upgrade the required skills through planned and structured training. A systematic stage-wise approach is suggested to make the learning experience effective, enjoyable and purposeful for the trainee.
Step-1 Understand the trainee’s mind
A new entrant to the laboratory is highly enthusiastic and wants to operate even the most sophisticated instruments available from day one. Unfortunately, this is not practically possible and the trainer has to make sustained efforts to help him or her achieve the desired objectives.
Stage-2 Discuss the system capabilities
Do not make the mistake of rushing into system operation on the very first day. Make a start with the application areas of the technique. Talk about the typical classes of compounds or, elements analysed using the system, detection ranges and other features that render the system suitable for analysis.
Stage-3 Introduce the System Components
The new entrant might at first sight feel scared on seeing the sophisticated system. Demystify the system with a brief introduction to the system modules laying emphasis on their contributions to overall reliability on results. Dwell briefly on basics without going into unnecessary details to maintain the trainee’s interest. This approach will help raise the trainee’s interest even further.
Stage-4 Demonstrate the operation
Now time is ripe to go into the operational aspects as the trainee has begun to appreciate the system capabilities and is now keen to learn its operation. Before proceeding further cover the safety requirements and need for environmental controls such as temperature, humidity, dust free environment and sample contamination from other sources. Next demonstrate correct practices of sample handling, pre-treatment, extraction, drying, weighing and sample dilution as incorrect practices can be adopted lifelong and need to be corrected right from start. Slowly proceed with the operation steps and explain the role of software in set up of system parameters and data treatment for generation of final results. It is also necessary at this stage to explain the different formulae and calculations, if needed, to arrive at the final results.
Stage-5 Introduction to Preventive Maintenance
Preventive maintenance ensures trouble free operation of instruments during their life- span. Highly sophisticated instruments require more stringent preventive maintenance routines as costs of repairs can be very high. The trainee at this stage is not expected to carry out the maintenance schedules but should begin to appreciate the necessity.
It serves little purpose if troubleshooting is covered in depth in a single session. It takes several months of hands-on operation before a trainee begins to appreciate the nature of problems that can arise. It helps to provide troubleshooting guidance as and when problems are faced.
In the end it can be summarized that training on sophisticated analytical instrument cannot be considered to be complete in 2-3 days or even through 2-3 day workshops. Such workshops help only to familiarize the trainee with the systems and on the other hand if spread over extended period of time under consistent monitoring will meet the required objectives.
Now ,hopefully, you will appreciate that merely providing operating command instructions is not sufficient as far as sophisticated instruments are concerned and extended training goes a long way in generating the trainee’s interest, confidence on system operation as well as on you as an accomplished trainer.