National Patient Safety Awareness Week has passed, but this year’s theme “Patient Safety 7/365: 7 days of recognition, 365 days committed to safe care,” underscores the need for continual awareness and conversation.  X-STATIC® antimicrobial technology recognizes the great achievements that have been made in the field of patient safety; however there is still work to be done. Soft surfaces make up 90 percent of the patient healthcare environment but are a missing piece of many infection prevention and safety protocols today.

In the following scenario, see if you can pick out this nurse’s mistake.

While changing the dressing of a MRSA infected wound, a nurse realizes that visitors in the hall can see her ICU patient in a compromised position.  With her gloves on, the nurse pulls the curtain shut with a quick tug.   After completing the dressing change, she straightens the patient’s bedding and gown and quickly throws her favorite roll of tape back into her uniform pocket as she leaves the room — throwing her gloves into the trash.

In this scenario the nurse has done everything right, except for one thing; she has potentially contaminated almost all of the soft surfaces in this patient’s room as well as her own uniform!  Although this was probably unintentional, cross contamination of this nature is extremely common and soft surface fabrics like privacy curtains, scrubs and lab coats can go without cleaning for extended periods of time.

It has been proven that soft surface fabrics act as “fomites,” which allow bacteria to grow and multiply. In a 2012 AJIC online published study, privacy curtains in three different medical wards were swabbed during a three-week period, and were found to be contaminated with MRSA. Awareness is the first step in preventing the spread of bacteria through soft surface fabrics. The healthcare system has made great strides in creating regulations for proper hand washing techniques and hard surface cleaning to protect patients from healthcare associated infections; however practice guidelines for soft surfaces are largely missing.

Integrating proper laundering practices with an engineering control (a change to the environment and does not require staff behavior modification or compliance) like antimicrobial fabrics can be an effective solution.  For more information on incorporating soft surface bacterial management into patient safety efforts, download this webinar from Infection Control Today: “A More Complete Approach to Infection Prevention.”  For an in-depth review of clinical data on the contamination of soft surface fabrics, download this free whitepaper: “Soft Surface Bacterial Contamination: Considerations for a Complete Infection Prevention Program.”