Sometimes the "amateurs" come up with important observations. Samantha Sherman and Patricia Henderson (above) are two of our Sloane Fellows who took on an interesting assignment suggested by MIT's Steven Spear. Thinking through the issue of hospital acquired infections, Steve suggested that a couple people could go to gemba and watch how germs might invade the perimeter around a patient in the hospital. Perhaps this kind of observation could lead to process improvements or other changes that could reduce the rate of infection.
So that's what Sam and Pat did. They are not trained clinicians and have frankly not spent all that much time in clinical settings. But they have good eyes. For many hours, they sat in patient rooms and watched as people entered and left, keeping track of potential sources of infection.
Here's a short excerpt of what they noticed, just the part focusing on hand hygiene. Please remember this was not meant to be a statistically valid sample. Some of the observations have been helpful to our infection control people as they design changes to improve compliance with this important aspect of the hospital. In other cases, the recommendations might be deferred because different approaches have been found to be more effective. See the post directly above this one for an update on the entire issue.
Over the course of 4 weeks, we spent approximately 25 hours observing interactions in inpatient rooms to evaluate what passes the perimeter of the infection zone. We were able to compare notes from our observations and categorize our findings into five categories.
1. Physical space
3. Hand hygiene
4. Use of gloves
5. Outside visitors
Major inconsistencies with staff using Cal Stat upon entering and exiting patient’s room.
This observation includes: nurses, co workers, food services, physical therapy, family members, couriers and Phlebotomist.
Further training in targeted work groups and visitors (see list above).
All visitors must sign in at front desk before entering patient’s room at that time.
Educate or give visitor a hand hygiene pamphlet that explains the importance of this
Involve the patient; include an antibacterial wipe/napkin on food trays along with an educational reminder to use before eating.
Empty Cal Stat – people were still going through the motions even if nothing was coming out.
1. Monitor Cal Stat usage
2. Install empty warning alerts
3. Flag – visual identifier
4. Blinking red light
5. Beeping sound
No standard protocol for when to wear gloves and when not to (medication delivery, checking wounds, etc.)
Establish best practices; undergo refresher training for all staff.
Use educational humor, display slogans in certain areas of the institution, i.e.
“Spread the word not the Germs”.
During our visits we observed that there is no designated work space for staff within the patient room. Caregivers are often observed using the soiled linen cart as a place to check and/or update the patient chart or they use the space to regroup before coming into the room, or moving on to the next patient room. Also, often times, equipment or charts would move back and forth from the clean bed to the patient bed increasing risk for infection. Floors, chairs, patient bed, and patient tray were used as work spaces to hold phlebotomist cart, charts, medications, and even urinals.
One recommendation is to create a designated space in the room that gets sanitized – perhaps one of those tables that fold down from the wall? If there is no space within the room, it could exist immediately outside the room. In some situations such as the phlebotomist, a rolling work station might be appropriate.
The cleanliness of the rooms also presented some risk. We observed dirty gloves on floor next to trash can; empty drain hanging out of trash can; and dirty paper towels on floor. Additionally, we observed a coworker who cleaned the patient’s belongings while wearing the same gloves used when she cleaned the patient.
Perhaps an easy fix for trash could be to buy taller trash cans. The trash cans are quite short and are often placed in a far corner of the room. If the cans were taller, there might be less likelihood of missing the can. Additionally training is recommended for all staff that is responsible for cleaning and sanitizing the room to educate on the various ways that infection can be transferred.
Some equipment is used on multiple patients – this includes tourniquet, stethoscope, and blood pressure cuff. Not all equipment was wiped properly before being used on the patient.
Some of the items could be assigned to each individual upon arrival – such as a tourniquet or blood pressure cuff. Communication and education around the importance of cleaning stethoscopes may help with consistent cleaning prior to use on patients.