Cleaning for healthy patient rooms seems like a no-brainer. We expect the highest level of cleanliness in health care environments, yet incomplete cleaning practices in patient rooms still exist in hospitals, clinics and doctor's offices. These can often lead to poor health outcomes for patients and the medical staff that serve them.
Not too long ago, nosocomial, or Hospital Acquired Infections (HAI) were an alarmingly big problem. Better protocols improved the situation but HAIs continue to present a serious threat to patients. The CDC reports that, on any given day, one in 31 hospital patients has at least one healthcare-associated infection.
Not surprisingly, the problem isn't limited to hospital rooms. A wide variety of nasty infections, from rhinoviruses, to influenza to MRSA, can be picked up at the doctor's office. More alarming, 75% of C. difficile (C. diff) infections, which causes long-term bouts of diarrhea and is linked to nearly 14,000 deaths a year, occur in people who were recently cared for in a doctor's office.
There is a better way to protect patients and staff from these infections in the hospital, clinic and doctor's office. Here are cleaning tips for healthy patient rooms.
Clean Touchpoints Frequently
Busy outpatient clinic and medical office exam rooms face two cleaning challenges. First, they turn over quickly, often with no more than a change of the protective paper covering the exam table. Secondly, unlike a hospital or other acute care location, there may not be strict infection prevention guidelines to follow and no one person charged with infection prevention. The combination often means incomplete and haphazard cleaning which leads to a higher risk of HAIs.
Cleaning patient-facing surface environments like exam tables, chairs and other furniture regularly will go a long way in cutting down on the occurrence of these infections. Designate a staff member to wipe down surfaces after each patient visit with a disposable, disinfectant wipe. These wipes allow staff to work quickly but be sure to follow manufacturer's instructions for dwell time.
Don't forget to clean other common touchpoints as well. Doorknobs, light switches, soap dispensers, even the pen patients sign in with are potential hazard zones. These surfaces, along with cabinet pulls, computer keyboards and toys in pediatric settings should also be cleaned with a disposable wipe.
For hospital patient rooms, protocol usually calls for an EPA-approved, hospital grade disinfectant to clean common touchpoints. Instruct crews to clean the top, front and sides of the bed headboard, mattress, frame side rails and between side rails. The same disinfectant is used on the TV remote, call buttons, IV poles and other touchpoints. Results can be tested with instruments like an adenosine triphosphate (ATP) meter.
When it comes to patient restrooms follow a common-sense order of operation. Clean the sink and counter areas first. Move to support bars and shower fixtures. Clean the toilet last.
The Floor is a Touchpoint Too
Patient room floors in hospitals and medical offices are often heavily contaminated with pathogens like C. diff, MRSA and vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) along with rhinovirus and influenza. Yet people often don't consider the floor as a transfer point. That makes sense. We think of transferring germs via our hands; touching a contaminated surface and then touching our eyes, nose or mouth and most people over the age of five don't touch the floor.
But we do touch the things that touch the floor.
Items like clothing, cell phone chargers, bags, purses, hospital call buttons and linens often end up on the floor and, according to a study in The American Journal of Infection Control, transfer plenty of germs with them.
Non-slip socks, worn by ambulatory hospital patients, pick up pathogens too. Patients walk around, get back into bed and contaminate their sheets.
Encourage patients and guests to keep personal items off of the floor. Install hooks to hang bags and coats. And clean patient room floors with a system that fully removes soils and pathogens.
Some facilities might clean floors with a flat microfiber mop. While microfiber is a better choice than a cotton string mop, the material can still be a source of cross contamination within a healthcare environment. From the Floor Up, a white paper by David harry and Jack McGurk, found that freshly laundered microfiber mops often contribute to cross contamination as the laundry process itself reduces cleaning efficacy. Bulk washing with mop heads from multiple hospitals can add to the problem.
Choose a system that cleans without the risk of cross contamination instead. An OmniFlex system from Kaivac fully removes dirt, soils and dangerous germs quickly, leaving floors clean, dry and ready to walk on.
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Amy Milshtein covers design, facility management and business topics for a variety of trade publications and consumer magazines.
Her work has won several awards, most recently a regional silver Azbee Award of Excellence.
She lives in Portland, OR with her family and Clyde, a 15-lb tabby cat. Once an avid hiker, these days she finds herself on the less-challenging -but-still-exciting 'creaky knees' trails.