Infection Prevention Week: The 5 Dirtiest Places in Your Hospital
Maintaining a clean environment in a hospital has been a top priority since the introduction of germ theory. But with the Affordable Care Act tying patient satisfaction to Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement through the use of the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) survey (HCAHPS), there is a direct financial incentive for focusing resources on cleaning and infection control standards. And what better time to talk about your hospital's cleanliness levels than International Infection Prevention Week.
You might think that your hospital is already as clean as it can get, but most patient rooms are far from a clean hospital room. In fact, germs can hide and fester in the most unlikely places. Keep reading for five surprising (or perhaps not so surprising) places in your hospital that are probably due for a good disinfecting.
1. Elevator Buttons
People go up and down in hospital elevators all day long, including patients, nurses, doctors, visitors, and administrators. While medical personnel have hand washing policies, a lot of other people at the hospital do not. That means every germ they have accumulated on their fingers is added atop every other visitor that's pushed that same elevator button. Not to mention the inside of an elevator is generally not a top cleaning priority.
2. Bed Curtains
The curtains around the beds in a shared hospital room play a critical role in patient comfort and privacy. But while they are not intended to come into contact with a patient directly, there are many instances where a cough, splash or splatter could send germs flying. And the worst part is that it's unlikely those curtains will be laundered half as often as the linens on the bed.
3. Cell Phones
This one applies to hospital personnel and visitors alike. The screens and buttons of phones that sit in everyone's pockets are rife with germs, with one study finding "abnormally high numbers of coliforms, a bacteria indicating fecal contamination." Just think about how many times you touch your own phone everyday. Chances are you're not in the habit of washing your hands when you're done.
4. Computer Keyboards
Electronic health records and modernized hospital systems that allows for doctors and nurses to track patient progress and treatment plans are great and can greatly improve patient outcomes. But the computers and tablets that are used to do that tracking? They're dirty. The computers at a nurses station, which sees shifts of nurses going in and out 24 hours a day without a single wipedown, are definitely a dirtiest place culprit.
Of course, 3 of the four above "dirty places" are dirty for the same reason: hands. Handwashing protocols are far and away the best way to keep a hospital clean. Doctors and nurses should be expected to clean their hands every time they interact with a patient and handwashing, and/or sanitization stations should be open and available to visitors as well to keep those germs under control.
Hospitals treat sick people, so germs are definitely to be expected. But the more you can look into the dark and dirty corners of your facility for germs and bacteria that could be hiding, the better off everyone will be.