When patients enter your medical facility, whether it's a freestanding clinic or a specialist's office, they expect you and your staff to take infection control seriously.
The spread of dangerous microorganisms, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), has made patients aware of and spooked by bugs they might catch at the doctor's office or hospital. Patients turn to providers who have clean offices and a proven commitment to their disinfection processes for their surgeries and other medical procedures.
Laundry is one way that infections spread. It's your duty to protect your clients and your staff from contamination, so you must audit your laundry program to reduce the likelihood of contamination via the linen and uniform vectors. Listed below are two steps to establish a proper infection control program for your medical-office linens, patient gowns and uniforms.
Protect Your Patients and the Public With Decontaminated Laundry
Fabric surfaces are wonderful vectors for microorganisms. Every time a patient sits on a bed, bacteria is being transferred to the fabric of the sheet. Some offices use disposable exam-bed liners and patient gowns. Offices that perform outpatient surgery and services that require "real" sheets don't have the option to use paper bed liners.
It's possible to launder exam-room linens onsite or in a staff member's home. However, you must be absolutely certain that the water temperature and the quality of the washing machine are sufficient to disinfect laundry. You must monitor the type of detergents and other disinfection products used to kill germs to be certain the ingredients rinse out of fabric completely.
Staff must read and understand allergies and side effects of any cleaning agent used on laundry. You must have a high enough heat setting in the laundry dryer to kill certain germs. Tests must be routinely performed on sheets and linens to check for the presence of bacterial and viral agents.
Tests that have been performed on uniforms show that up to 60 percent of healthcare workers' scrubs and other uniforms are contaminated with microorganisms after a workday. The pants are the most contaminated item of clothing.
Contamination of scrubs and uniforms increases as the day wears on, so germ transmission occurs in the medical setting after exposure to contamination that's airborne, skin-borne or transmitted via other items in the medical office environment.
There are also public health concerns when medical staff wear scrubs home. If the healthcare worker stops at a grocery store or daycare center on the way home, aren't germs being spread throughout the community?
It's wise for a medical office to have a designated service to provide uniforms on site. Staff can wear street clothes to the office, enter a dressing area and change into fresh scrubs each new shift without putting patients or the public at risk.
Protect Your Staff With Adequate PPE
When your staff changes into fresh scrubs and then back into street clothes before heading home, their risk of spreading germs at home is also reduced. They don't have the additional concern and expense of providing a washer and dryer. Plus, how can you actually be certain staff are properly decontaminating their uniforms?
Another way to protect your staff is to lease adequate isolation gear. It's good to have extra fresh uniforms on site in case a uniform is contaminated with bodily fluids. But a proper gown, glove, goggles and mask routine will allow staff to work in a risky environment without soiling their primary uniform.
Having both an onsite uniform service and adequate isolation supplies shows your staff that you expect complete compliance with infection control protocols. When you strictly enforce clean-uniform and isolation protocols, you increase the safety of staff and patients.
In the end, you protect your bottom line when you have a professional laundry service handle uniforms and procedure-room linens for you. Risks of infection are reduced along with your responsibility to keep track of the disinfection details. Contact Superior Linen Service today to set up your office's custom linen, gown and uniform program.