By Sharon Ward-Fore
Surface disinfection is key to containing viral outbreaks. Fundamentally, the concept and importance of surface disinfection hasn’t changed. However, the impact of the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic on today’s world makes it imperative to change how the healthcare community conducts proper surface cleaning and disinfection. It starts with mindset – because healthcare and lives depend on it.
Recent studies have shown that only 32% of the 110,000 objects in inpatient and outpatient healthcare facilities are thoroughly cleaned.
How cleaning is done today is based on time, the volume of room equipment, Environmental Services (EVS) staffing levels, experience and training, and the types of cleaning supplies available.
To mitigate the spread of potential pathogens that cause healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), infection prevention practices must evolve. So, what does success look like today, and how is it achieved? Here are three tips for getting cleaning and disinfecting right.
Tip 1: Know who is responsible
Between the trifecta of departments responsible for infection prevention—EVS, Nursing and Infection Prevention—it’s every individual’s responsibility to ensure surface cleaning and disinfecting are done quickly and effectively to prevent potential pathogen transmission successfully. It all comes down to good teamwork and relationships with other IP experts, communication, accountability and unwavering protocol. Everyone must be on the same page.
Tip 2: Know the guidelines and practices
Protocols for individual patient care areas, including frequency, method and process, should be based on the risk of pathogen transmission. The probability of contamination is based on the patient’s care area, the vulnerability of the patient to infection (immunocompromised versus general patient), and the potential for pathogen exposure, ranging from high-touch to low-touch surfaces. For example, patient toilet areas should be cleaned last in the process because of their patient exposure, frequent contamination and higher risk of pathogen transmission.
The CDC recommends the following core practices for environmental cleaning and disinfection:
- Require routine and targeted cleaning of environmental surfaces as indicated by the level of patient contact and degree of soiling. Clean and disinfect surfaces close to the patient and frequently touched surfaces in the patient care environment on a more frequent schedule than other surfaces. Promptly clean and decontaminate spills of blood or other potentially infectious materials.
- Select Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered disinfectants with microbiocidal activity against the pathogens most likely to contaminate the patient care environment.
- Follow manufacturers’ instructions for proper use of cleaning and disinfecting products. Consider the manufacturer’s dilution guidelines, contact time, material compatibility, storage, shelf-life, safe use and disposal. The shorter the contact time and the more convenient disinfectants are to use, the more often they get used!
Tip 3: Empower healthcare professionals
Armed with the right tools, products and knowledge, everyone involved in healthcare facility cleaning and disinfection is empowered to play a vital role in the lives of all who set foot inside. Involving every team member in the surface disinfectant conversation helps solidify their buy-in.
The CDC recommends these core components for a successful environmental cleaning and disinfection program:
- Integrate environmental services into the hospital’s safety culture
- Educate and train all HCP responsible for cleaning and disinfecting patient care areas
- Select appropriate cleaning and disinfection technologies and products
- Standardize setting-specific cleaning and disinfection protocols
- Monitor effectiveness and adherence to cleaning and disinfection protocols
- Provide feedback on success and quality of cleaning and disinfection to staff and stakeholders
Recognizing the importance of proper surface disinfection to help eradicate emerging viral pathogens is the first step in making this life-saving change. Taking responsibility, paying attention to detail, empowering staff, adhering to best practices and knowing what to value – which ultimately saves lives – are crucial factors for success.
Learn more from Sharon Ward-Fore, MS, MT(ASCP), CIC, FAPIC, Metrex’s Infection Prevention Advisor and other IPC experts at the Metrex 2021 Infection Prevention Virtual Symposium, October 19 – 21, 2021. Earn up to 5 free CE credits at this complimentary event and tap into more, in-depth education to help keep staff and patients safe. Learn how to increase collaboration between IPCs and EVS and motivate behavior change that sticks. Register today for free.
Sharon Ward-Fore, MS, MT(ASCP), CIC, FAPIC is an Infection Prevention Advisor at Metrex, providing clinical expertise and infection prevention guidance.