[Image Attribution: Guido Mieth via Getty Images]

 

Sanitization is considered an important step in maintaining a medical facility, but the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) reports that one in five hospitals has no sanitation system in place, as of 2016.

 

With the coronavirus and its variants still making their way through the global population, healthcare centers must do everything they can to stay clean. Here are some guidelines to streamline your healthcare facility's sanitation practices, no matter what resources you have.

 

1. Create Step-by-Step Protocols

 

Your sanitation protocols should be easy to follow and leave no room for interpretation. The best way to accomplish this is to outline each protocol by steps so all of your employees can adhere to them without issue.

 

The outline should include the required personal protective equipment (PPE), a walkthrough of the procedure, and the other tools necessary to complete the sanitation workflow. Workers in all industries appreciate it when they get straightforward directions, as the objective of their task is clear and they know exactly what to do.

 

The list of equipment and tools will probably require you to use more detail, but as long as you keep the protocols in a step-by-step format, your employees should have little trouble understanding them and thus complete them in a timely manner.

 

2. Write Everything Down

 

The best way to put your protocols into steps is by writing them down so employees of all experience levels can use them as a resource. You should include everything they might need to know: tools, measurements, cleaners, and other specific requests.

 

Another element to include in your written protocols is risk assessments. Every sanitation practice poses different risks, whether the employees handle sharp tools, use harmful chemicals, or simply walk on wet floors. You should write down every possible accident that can occur on a given project and the contingency plan for each scenario.

 

Eventually, you might find that you wrote an entire handbook on your facility's sanitation procedures, but that's okay. The more thorough the protocols, the better. You can never be too careful in the healthcare industry.

 

3. Set a Firm Inspection Schedule

 

In healthcare, inspections accomplish much more than keeping employees honest. They address problems before they occur, keep the facility fully functional, save time and resources, and thus save lives. With that in mind, it's imperative that you have a comprehensive inspection schedule in place.

 

This is where risk assessment comes into play. Have your employees perform a visual inspection of all the resources needed for a sanitation project. They can identify any potential problems that might arise during the project and add contingency plans for each.

 

You should additionally add a bi-weekly or monthly inspection schedule that encompasses your entire facility. Every item and surface in a medical facility needs periodic cleaning, and a pre-scheduled inspection allows your employees to cover everything in a timely manner without putting aside their other responsibilities.

 

Impromptu inspections might keep workers more honest, but they also force them to drop everything and start a brand-new project, which hurts productivity and forces them to rush their other tasks. They should know what to inspect, and when to inspect it. Sanitation is a time-sensitive practice.

 

4. Delegate Properly

 

Along with written steps and schedules, another key component of crystal-clear protocols is delegation: assigning each task to the right person or people. Organize a small team to spearhead your protocol efforts. A respected authority will motivate the rest of the staff to adhere to the protocols.

 

The team can develop schedules and protocols with each other's counsel. This group can then coach the sanitation employees and watch over them until everyone is on the same page about the new protocols.

 

A clear chain of command also creates greater accountability from top to bottom. When everyone knows the name and face of their superior, they know who to call if something goes wrong or they have trouble with a step in the protocols.

 

What Should I Clean First?

 

With so much to clean, you may find yourself unsure where to start. Some items in your facility are used more often than others, and you should prioritize them first. Those items include: 

 

  • Beds: Linens, blankets, pillowcases, bed frames, the whole thing. Patients and employees spend most of their time in and around these beds, so you should clean them as frequently as possible.

 

  • Surgical tools: Tools big and small that healthcare professionals use during operations, including their clothing. These should only be used once before each cleaning.

 

  • Common items and areas: TV remotes, nurse call buttons, drawer handles, doorknobs, phones, keyboards, light switches, and anything else that gets a lot of hand traffic throughout the day.

 

  • Eating areas: Kitchens, cafeterias, and lunchrooms are nesting grounds for germs.

 

  • Bathrooms: Sinks, countertops, support bars, shower doors/handles, and toilets. 

 

You should also invest in EPA-approved disinfectants to ensure your facility gets a thorough cleaning, and use the best gloves you can find. Gloves touch everything, so they need to be thick and protective.

 

Run Your Facility More Efficiently

 

To summarize, your sanitation protocols should be clear, detailed, and well-documented. You should write everything down and establish a clear chain of command so that everyone knows their responsibilities. All risks should be accounted for, and you must also give employees the time and resources to complete all inspections.

 

By following these fundamentals, your medical facility's sanitation practices will become more efficient and streamlined, helping to save lives and get people back home where they belong.

 

Mia Barnes is a health journalist and Editor in Chief at Body + Mind.

 

This article was from Confident Voices in Healthcare and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].

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