It’s time to add ‘and stethoscope hygiene’ to ‘practice hand hygiene’ signs
Changing habits is hard. We can see the data, understand the science and even participate in a training session, yet we go back to doing it like we always did.
That is precisely what researchers observed and documented in a recently published quality improvement project on stethoscope hygiene. In the July issue of the American Journal of Infection Control from the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), researchers found that healthcare providers rarely perform stethoscope hygiene between patient encounters, despite its importance for infection prevention. The authors call for the inclusion of stethoscope hygiene in all hand hygiene initiatives.
Infection prevention is a complex undertaking, and stethoscope hygiene is an important component. Here are a few simple tips from 3M™ Littmann® stethoscopes along with some hand hygiene essentials.
Barriers to change may exist at several levels. Maybe there is a level of disbelief that stethoscopes get as contaminated as hands, despite what research shows. Maybe wiping stethoscopes is perceived as inconvenient or there’s concern that sanitizers and wipes will damage the stethoscope (Tip: All Littmann stethoscopes feature next-generation tubing with improved resistance to alcohol). Whatever the obstacles, let’s challenge ourselves to identify and overcome them. It’s essential to patient safety.
At 3M, we are committed to a future without preventable infections. As with hand hygiene, cleaning stethoscopes between patients should be expected in all health care settings and supported by leadership and clinicians alike. The future of infection prevention and superior patient care will be built upon a culture of compliance. Be a stethoscope hygiene champion in your facility!