One thing I never thought about until I became a nurse was the type of germs I could possibly be transporting home from the hospital to my family. As a student I remember thinking, “As long as I do hand hygiene before I go home I’ll be good”. I never thought about all of the other ways I could transport germs home and contaminate my myself or family.
It wasn’t until my husband became very sick one day from a case of viral pneumonia that I brought home to him that made me start thinking. After this, I thought about how I could have prevented this from happening. Now, I’m even more concerned about it since I have a toddler. So I want to share with you some ways you can minimize transporting germs home to your family.
In this article, I am going to talk about:
- Why it’s important to be concerned about transporting germs home from the hospital
- Common items that transport germs home that you may not be aware of
- How you can take measures to prevent taking germs home
Here is a video on me talking about this subject on YouTube. Don’t forget to subscribe to my channel for more videos 🙂
What’s the Big Deal?
As a nurse we are coming into contact with some NASTY and LETHAL germs. For example, on a daily basis a bedside nurse is probably coming into contact with common cold viruses, the flu, GI bugs, MRSA, VRE, c. diff, viral & bacteria cases of pneumonia, and the list could go on and on. These germs can easily be picked up by your shoes, pens, scrubs, lab jacket, watch and be taken home. It is amazing how long germs can live on objects!
In 2013, a research study conducted by Anders Hakansson PhD, an assistant professor of microbiology and immunology in the UB School of Medicine & Biomedical Science, quoted the following finding:
Commonly handled objects that are contaminated with these biofilm bacteria could act as reservoirs of bacteria for hours, weeks or months, spreading potential infections to individuals who come in contact with them.
The biofilm bacteria in this study were S. pneumoniae (which causes most ear infections) and S. pyogenes (which causes strep throat).
So, my point is if these two very common bacterias can live on surfaces for weeks or months, how long can these germs we come into contact as nurses live on our shoes, pens, scrubs, skins, etc? The answer is that we don’t totally know, so we must try to take measures to prevent spreading them.
Common items that Transport Germs Home & How you can Prevent it
- Shoes! Always change shoes before you get into your car and put them in a bag in the trunk of your car. In addition, clean them weekly with a strong disinfectant.
- Watches! I always got in a habit at the end of my shift of cleaning my watch with a disinfectant wipe that kills almost every bacteria/virus known. Also, it is a good idea to have two watches (one watch you wear at home and the other you wear only to work).
- Scrubs & Lab coat! Remove them immediately when you get home and put them in a separate laundry bin so your other clothes don’t become contaminated.
- Skin & Hair! Take a shower immediately when getting home before you eat, cook dinner, or spend time with family.
- Floor board of car, steering wheel, and seat! If you don’t take your shoes off before getting into your car, be aware of the germs that have collected in your floor board of your car. In addition, your steering wheel and seat may be contaminated from uncleaned hands and dirty scrubs. So, try to clean these areas weekly.
- Pens! Always keep your work pens separate from home pens. In addition, try to get into the habit of cleaning your pens at the end of your work day and avoid putting them in your mouth.
Always be mindful on what you are coming into contact with at work. If you had a work day where you took care of 4 contact isolation patients, you probably want to definitely practice some of my tips above.
You may be interested in: “How to Dress as a Nurse”
Goldbaum, E. (2013, December 23). Toys, books, cribs can harbor bacteria for long periods, study finds. Retrieved October 1, 2015, from http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2013/12/030.html