Infection Control Today - 09/2002: Cross Contamination

Cross Contamination

Wake up to the clock's alarm
Press two buttons to disarm
What is on them? I don't know
Hope it's nothing serious, though

Finish "things" and wash my hands
"Off" the faucet, "off" the fan
The towel's been there for quite a while
What is on it? I don't know
Hope it isn't serious, though

To the car and grab the wheel
Outside flora choose to steal
A ride to work upon my arms
(They're so subtle, have such charm)
Which ones are they? I don't know
Hope they're nothing serious, though

Park the car, step to the ground
Cross the lot and then walk down
A set of steps, some bricks, some grass
What's on my shoes? Ugh! Alas!
Cannot see "them" cannot feel
Know that they might make me ill

Time for work shoes, scrubs and such
Same lock and locker that I touch
What is on them? I don't know
Hope it isn't serious, though

Now I'm shelving clean supplies
(Wish I had an alibi)
The bin they're in has bits of dust
Some I've accidentally touched
What is in it? I don't know
Hope it's nothing serious, though

Wash my hands and back to work
Back to where the germs might lurk
So autoclave, don't circulate
Put them in a deadly state
You ask what were they? I don't know
Now they can't be serious, though

I scratch my head with my right hand
It's an itch that I can't stand
Something's on my fingers now?
I'm too busy, don't think how
Things spread from here to there
Don't remember to take care
Just what is it? I don't know
It just could be serious, though

Someone puts a "lap" set down
Water trickles out and 'round
I reach to start it, grab the phone
What's on my hand? (I'm not alone)
By now you're bored
Rhyme drives you crazy
Here's what happens if you're lazy

Don't wash your hands
Or check the phone
Or disinfect
Leave germs alone

They'll double their numbers
Every twenty
Producing toxins?
Oh yes, plenty!

Be aware that what you touch
Is touched by others
Who might fuss
When asked to wash their hands and such
For many, it is just too much
To watch for doorknobs, latches, locks
Anything that has a top,
Shoes, shoe laces, buckles, clothes,
Hair, eyelashes and elbows

And just when you feel you'll relax
Feel you have a short repast
I hate to tell you right then, Honey
Those germs are riding on your money

What is on it? I don't know
It could be deadly serious, though

The last couplet of the poem was brought home to me during a discussion of the modes of transmission of pathogens during a class for CRCST certification presented by Nancy Stierheim, RN, BS, MHA, CRCST at Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh. Marie Wilkie, RN, BS, MN, an operating room educator at Mercy Hospital, related the following: Some years ago, in a U.S. Army-based wing of The American Hospital of Paris, France, an infant died in a nursery, with no apparent cause. After a second mysterious death, an investigation was begun. A third death ensued. The investigators found no breach of protocol. The administration of care and medications were followed correctly. All nurses were washing their hands between the handling of one infant and another. It was finally noted by an investigator that one of the nurses had the mannerism of reaching to the armpit area of her uniform in order to adjust the uniform so that it would be more comfortable. Further inspection revealed the nurse had a boil in that area which was causing her discomfort. When she adjusted her uniform, she unwittingly transferred Staphylococcus aureus from her uniform (which had struck through the linen from the boil) to her fingertips, to the infants in her care. By the time the error was detected, eight infants had died.

Barry G. Govenor, CRCST, BA, CNMT, is employed in the central service department at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

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