The personal hygiene and dress code of sterile processors have the power to make a difference in patient safety.

Patient Safety

The Important Role Dress Codes Play in Endoscopy Processing

Jewelry, for example — including earrings, necklaces, rings, bracelets and wristwatches that cannot be contained within surgical scrub attire — should not be worn in the decontamination, preparation, high-level disinfection, sterilization, or sterile storage areas.

Take a look at what the best-dressed endoscopy reprocessing staff is sporting — but, perhaps more importantly, consider what those workers are not wearing.

Nancy Chobin, president and CEO of Sterile Processing University LLC, outlined personal dress code and hygiene dos and don’ts in a recent issue of ENDOPRO Magazine. Jewelry, for example — including earrings, necklaces, rings, bracelets and wristwatches that cannot be contained within surgical scrub attire — should not be worn in the decontamination, preparation, high-level disinfection, sterilization, or sterile storage areas. 

Those items can harbor microorganisms, fall into reprocessed items and can cause holes in gloves and other protective garb, she wrote.

A study published in June reinforces those precautions specifically related to wristwatches. Research published in Infectious Disease found that watches with metal bands are safer since leather, plastic and other band materials were more likely to be contaminated with bacteria than metal.

The bacteria that the researchers found were common ones contained on skin such as Staphylococcus and Pseudomonas, and intestinal versions such as Escherichia

“The ability of many of these bacteria to significantly affect the health of immunocompromised hosts indicates a special need for healthcare workers and others in hospital environments to regularly sanitize these surfaces,” the authors wrote.

An earlier study out of the UK examined wristwatch use and hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) and concluded that wearing a watch increased bacterial contamination of the wrist but that hand contamination didn’t occur unless the watch was manipulated.

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Related Content: Cell Phones an Underappreciated Source of Contamination
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Don’t Forget the PPE

Additionally, PPE is of course essential to personal safety in sterile processing departments. ANSI/AAMI ST91:2021 calls for PPE in endoscope cleaning areas to include:

  • General purpose utility gloves
  • A long-sleeved fluid-proof or fluid-resistant gown or jumpsuit
  • A fluid-resistant face mask and eye protection
  • Fluid-protective shoe covers with slip-proof bottoms

OSHA also weighs in on safety requirements for sterile processing departments, and serious violations carry a penalty of a potential $15, 625 fine.

In contrast, facilities that adopt single-use endoscopes can eliminate reprocessing and repairing the devices while at the same time being confident that the sterile instruments, which are new each time, eliminate cross-contamination concerns.

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