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Hospital staff’s mistakes with gowns, gloves may spread bacteria

A research team recently found that hospital staff caring for infectious patients can inadvertently cause bacterial contamination through mistakes in the disposal of personal protective garments. Healthcare workers in Pennsylvania will want to know more about the study so that they can prevent the spread of harmful bacteria.

In particular, workers may have their clothes or equipment contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria with multiple drug resistance, such as MRSA. For six months, researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago observed 125 healthcare workers, including 83 nurses and 24 doctors, as they cared for patients in four adult intensive care units. More than a third of the workers acquired a multiple drug-resistant organism during a patient encounter.

Bacteria was found on the hands of four healthcare workers, the clothes or jewelry of another four, the stethoscope of three and the in-hospital mobile phone of two. Seventy percent of environmental surfaces, especially blood pressure cuffs, call buttons and other equipment in close proximity to patients, had bacteria.

Thirty-nine percent of the workers committed a doffing error even though 90 percent had received “donning and doffing” training in the previous five years. For example, many removed their gloves before their gowns or removed, rolled up and disposed of gowns in a careless manner. Removing gloves and gown as a unit may help prevent contamination.

The errors of hospital staff members may lead to preventable patient injuries. In such cases, patients may be able to receive compensation under medical malpractice law. Damages might cover the cost of those treatments they had to undergo, the income they lost because of them and the pain and suffering they had to endure. Before filing the lawsuit, victims may want legal guidance. A lawyer may handle negotiations and take the case to court if a settlement cannot be achieved.