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Improper medical garment removal can spread bacteria

New Jersey patients know that the medical staff members who treat them are only human and can make mistakes. Many mistakes are minor or caught very quickly before they can do any harm, but some medical errors can be serious and cause harm to patients or to others. Mistakes involving contaminated materials can spread disease throughout a medical setting. A recent study indicates that mistakes made by health care workers when removing personal protective clothing can contaminate clothing or equipment with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The study that was conducted by researchers in Chicago observed nurses and doctors in adult intensive care units for a period of six months. Half of the 125 health care workers observed had been formally trained in the proper use of protective garments and equipment in the previous year. Ninety percent had received training in 'donning and doffing" of personal protective garments in the previous five years.

The researchers collected thousands of samples and tested health care workers' hands, gloves and gowns before and after the workers interacted with patients. In a published report, the researchers said that while treating patients, one-third of the workers acquired organisms that were resistant to multiple drugs. Additionally, 70 percent of sites had organisms, particularly items that were in close proximity to patients, including bed rails, call buttons, and blood pressure cuffs.

The researchers observed health care worker errors during the donning and doffing of garments. Many workers went against the recommended procedure of removing gloves and gowns together and removed gloves first. Hand contamination was reported to be 10 times higher when this occurred.

The spreading of disease in a hospital or clinic might not be entirely avoidable, but when contamination is caused by mistakes made by a health care worker, it could be hospital negligence. When a mistake causes harm to a patient, a medical facility could be liable.

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