Providers lackadaisical approach to stethoscope cleaning could up infection risk — 6 insights

Eric Oliver - Print  |

A study, published in the American Journal of Infection Control, found that providers do not clean their stethoscope between patient encounters, although it contributes to infection prevention.

Here's what you should know:

1. CDC guidelines require re-usable medical equipment to be disinfected between patients.

2. In this study, researchers observed providers at two Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals.
Researchers conducted an educational class on the importance of hand and stethoscope hygiene, and provided sanitization materials. Researchers documented both hand and scope hygiene practices from outside of patient rooms.

Researchers observed hand hygiene encounters for 126 patient before the educational intervention and in 46 encounters after the intervention. Concerning stethoscope hygiene, researchers observed 128 before the education intervention and 41 after the intervention.

3. Seventy-three of 126 providers washed their hands before patient encounters before the intervention, and 29 of 46 washed their hands post intervention.

4. Of 128 provider encounters, no providers disinfected their stethoscope before an interaction and of 41 provider encounters, none disinfected their stethoscope after the education interventional.

5. The researchers determined their educational and sanitization efforts "were insufficient to change culture or habits."

6. Researchers said their study was limited by the number of observations and the fact they didn't observe within patient rooms. However researchers concluded, "This highlights an important, but often overlooked infection control issue by discovering how rarely stethoscope hygiene is done, and suggests that standard education may not be the answer."

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