In a report by New Scientist magazine, Charles Gerber, professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona found that swabs taken from office communal coffee cups reveled a disturbing 41% positive test for faecal contamination.
He has also swabbed down other work surfaces in offices throughout the US and found high bacterial counts on telephone handsets, light switches and computer mice.
So if the benign environment of an office is such a cesspool what then of the nooks and crannies of the Emergency Department.
Now that’s probably an extreme example, sure, but other studies have demonstrated that a nurse’s hands may become contaminated even when undertaking activities such as simply taking a pulse or holding a patients hand. Is it any wonder that the rich soup of mucous membranes, open wounds and other bodily secretions that wash through most emergency departments provides ample opportunity for nosocomial pathogens to migrate onto your personage from all sorts of objects.
Even our own skin is crawling with freeloading bacterial flora. These can be divided into two main categories.
- Transient Flora: these little fellas colonize the superficial layers of skin and are the organisms most frequently associated with iatrogenic (hospital acquired) infections. Examples include staphylococcus aureus , gram negative bacilli and yeasts.
- Resident Flora: citizens of the deeper layers, these guys are more resistant to removal and include coagulase negative staphylococci and diptheroids. They are not usually involved in hospital acquired infections unless the patient is immuno-compromised.
So the take home message here is: Wash your hands frequently.
At the beginning and end of shift.
Before and after patient contact.
After removing gloves.
After handling soiled equipment.
Before handling or preparing food. Especially if you are going to share it with me.
After blowing your nose, sneezing or having your hands near any other of your own orifices.
â€¢ Wash them for at least 15 seconds. (If preparing for an aseptic technique a more thorough cleaning will be required.) Wash all the surfaces of the hands, including the thumbs, and between the fingers. Remember, chocolate is brownâ€¦faeces is brownâ€¦so pay attention!
â€¢ Alcohol based hand rubs with added emollient have been found to be at least as effective as antiseptic hand wash solutions and much gentler to the skin. Let them Air dry after washing.
â€¢ If using a hospital microbiocidal antiseptic hand wash, rinse them well and pat dry with paper towels. Rubbing them dry with paper towels only damages the skin.
â€¢ And finally, nails should be kept short. All hand and wrist jewelry should be removed prior to all procedures.