Picture this: I am in my hospital bed and a healthcare provider comes in (yes, the word was out by now to at least look like they are washing their hands in front of me). I am in a teaching hospital where many people come in and ask to see you, which I am okay with. How else can people learn? The person asks if they can listen to my heart and lungs, and I say "sure". They then quickly proceed to take a stethoscope out of their dirty pocket that has papers and who knows what else in it and wanted me to lift up my gown to listen to my heart and lungs. I said, "NO WAY". They gave me a puzzled look.
I informed them that they had to wipe off the stethoscope before it touched my body. They go over to the counter and get a surface disinfectant that is not to be applied to skin, and wiped off the stethoscope. I said, "no way" and continued to explain. "First, what you used to wipe it off is not the appropriate product. Second, you did not even follow the contact time to make sure the product will be effective." I told them I know this because I read the label and this product line has various color tops for helping the user know what product to use in what situation. The product they chose was incorrect.
Since I was the patient, I informed them their technique was wrong and asked what type of in-service training they had when it comes to examining a patient. I also asked how many patients they had seen without wiping off their stethoscope properly. Well, as you can guess, they did not get to listen to my heart or breath sounds. They said thank you and left.
I wanted to share this story because everyone, no matter their role, needs to understand the "why" behind what they do, regardless of how advanced their degree is. This person had no idea why they should wipe off their stethoscope between examinations or how to do so appropriately. Either they were never told/trained properly or they were trained and felt the information was not important. Wiping of the stethoscope is just as important as washing one's hands. We've posted some recent articles on superbugs and dirty stethoscopes to help drive home the point that infection prevention is everybody's business. This includes wiping down a stethoscope in front of a patient.
As my wife, Maryjo, stated, "Stephen, you are something else. That person had no idea who they were going to examine, and you put the fear of God in them." I just want it done right each and every time, and not just for me, for all patients.
This encounter really got me thinking about our line of work. We must make sure all staff who do medical device reprocessing not only understand the "why" but also "the how, the when, the what and the who". Understanding these details of reprocessing, and the importance of everything they do, will help them provide the best patient care. Infection control must be practiced by every patient, every visitor and every hospital employee regardless of what they do. Like a chain, infection control is only as strong as the weakest link. In this case, the weakest link could have been the healthcare practitioner who did not wipe down their stethoscope.
Keep it Clean.