Improper Disinfection of Stethoscopes
Lyerly, Jordan M.
Alexander, Justin L.
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Session presented on Sunday, September 18, 2016: Stethoscopes have been referred to as non-critical items in healthcare (Livshiz-Riven, Borer, Nativ, Eskira, Larson, 2015), with no current protocols for disinfection. Stethoscopes serve as reservoirs for bacteria that contribute to hospital-acquired infections. Studies demonstrate significant percentage of stethoscopes used by healthcare personnel are colonized with bacteria, five to seventeen percent of which were contaminated with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), (Tang, Worster, Srigler, & Main, 2011). Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) related to MRSA have increased from two percent to 64 % from 1974 to 2004 in intensive care units (Russell, Secrest, & Schreeder, 2012). HAIs are responsible for 721,800 infections and 75,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016). Stethoscope disinfection has gone overlooked in an atmosphere where patient safety is a top priority. Most of the common factors that prevented all levels of healthcare professionals from disinfecting their stethoscopes were forgetfulness, lack of available materials, and not having enough time (Thom, Saito, Yanliang, Gnanasuntharam, McGeer, Willey, & Borgundvaag, 2014). A survey of healthcare professionals found that most, when they did disinfect their stethoscopes, used an array of products including, alcohol wipes, soap and water, hand sanitizer, and virox wipes (Thom et al. 2014). This same study found that a 70% alcohol pad was most effective in disinfecting stethoscopes (Thom et al. 2014). The healthcare providers that disinfected their stethoscopes between each patient use showed less frequent bacterial growth (Tang et al. 2011). A study in a geriatric hospital ward found that by making alcohol wipes more readily available reduced stethoscope bacterial contamination by 41% and MRSA by 100% after 3 months of implementation (Tang et al. 2011). Boston Children's Hospital conducted a pilot study in which they aimed to increase stethoscope disinfection rates.The disinfection rate among nurses alone increased from 13% to 67% (Zaghi, Zhou, Dionne, Graham, Potter-Bynoe, & Sandora, 2013). For a total cost of 3,758 dollars, they covered six floors and the emergency department with stainless steel baskets, alcohol pads, stickers, and signs to help increase the rate of disinfection (Zaghi et al. 2013). Broken down, that is roughly 17 dollars per patient room. This cost is minuscule compared to treating a HAI. In keeping the values of beneficence and no maleficence, healthcare professionals must foster an environment of safety in every action they take with their patients. Disinfecting a stethoscope between each patient is a small way to have a large impact on the safety of our patients.