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Friday, April 5, 2019

False Sense of Security?

How many of you have walked in a hospital, hotel or any other building and notice how clean and shiny the floors are? Did you consciously or subconsciously feel that the building itself must be clean? When you see something clean do you feel safe and free from harm’s way? If you’ve never given it much thought, think about it the next time you enter a building. When you go out for lunch, go to a spa, the dentist or the doctor’s office, and you see them putting on a pair of gloves, what do you think? I bet it’s similar to the above… there is a sense of security in seeing someone putting on clean gloves. Does your stomach turn if you see that the gloves being worn seem to be covering sweaty hands? Have you ever been brave enough to ask the person to remove the gloves, wash their hands and put on a fresh pair?  

I have. It caused a scene. The phlebotomist was not impressed. I was slowing down her ability to get people in and out of the chair to take blood samples. Frankly, I did not care. I quite literally wiped down the chair myself with a disinfectant wipe and sat there until she had removed her gloves, sanitized her hands and put on clean gloves. Only then was she able to touch me. She was not happy. I ended up with a nice bruise as her pay back was to puncture my vein. No big deal. Bruises heal quickly, but infections may not.

Why all the talk about getting a false sense of security and making people change their gloves? Well, a study published in ICHE concluded that improper removal of PPE contaminated Healthcare Workers (HCWs) lead to self-contamination. In fact more than 1/3 of the HCWs were contaminated with multi-drug resistant organisms after caring for patients who were colonized or infected with the bacteria. HCWs are highly trained, yet almost 40% of the workers in the study made errors in removing their PPE which lead to self-contamination. As one would expect, the dirtier the environment the greater the chance of contamination.

The study highlights the fact that we need to not only re-evaluate methods for removing PPE, but to contemplate how frequently training needs to occur. Which leads me to ask you about gloves on hands of non-healthcare workers. HCWs are trained in techniques of donning and doffing PPE. In healthcare we know that self-contamination can lead to serious consequences, just take SARS as an example where many of the infected HCWs became ill from self-contamination during removal of their PPE. Do non-HCWs get the same training? The next time you see a teenager at Subway putting on gloves before they make your sub you may want to consider how clean their hands are… Don’t even get me started about the security staff at airports. The next time you fly, check out how sweaty their gloved hands are. They have been touching all sorts of stuff before they touch your things!

Bugging Off!


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