Rates of stethoscope cleaning, hand hygiene practices 'lower than expected' in ED, study says

A study published in the American Journal of Infection Control examined stethoscope cleaning and hand hygiene in an emergency department setting.

Researchers anonymously observed stethoscope cleaning and hand hygiene practices during and after 426 patient encounters at an ED in the VA San Diego Healthcare System. Of the 426 encounters, 26.1 percent involved a personal stethoscope.

The study shows:

• In 13 percent of the encounters involving a stethoscope, the provider placed a glove over the stethoscope before patient contact.
• Providers cleaned the stethoscope with water and a hand towel before patient interaction in 4.3 percent of the encounters.
• Providers cleaned the stethoscope with an alcohol swab after patient interaction in 11.3 percent of the encounters.
• Providers used hand sanitizers or washed hands before patient interaction in 50 percent of the encounters. After patient interaction, hand sanitizer use or handwashing increased to 77.9 percent.
• In 48.4 percent of encounters, gloves were used before patient interaction.

"Rates of stethoscope and hand hygiene performance were lower than expected," study authors concluded.

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