Tapping Employee Expertise: A Nurse Seeks to Prevent Infections

Workers often have the most knowledge about their workplace; as a result, they often come up with the best ideas for improving the workplace. That is why kaizen events are conducted by cross-functional teams of workers who actually do the work.

This latest example of the often-untapped expertise of workers comes from healthcare, as reported recently by the Cincinnati Enquirer. The article, by Val Prevish, describes a new invention to prevent the spread of germs: a plastic sleeve to cover the diaphragm and neck of a stethoscope so that it does not actually touch the patient.

This invention was not created or even conceived by a hospital administrator, a director of medicine or a consultant. The inventor was Jenn Giroux – a nurse.

Giroux said she saw a need for a method to quickly and thoroughly protect patients from the germs that collect on healthcare workers' stethoscopes, which often go unsterilized between patient exams…

Several years ago Giroux experimented with some baby products she had around the house after the birth of her ninth child in 2002. She came up with what she hopes will soon be standard medical equipment, StethoClean - a protective plastic sleeve that covers the diaphragm and the neck of a stethoscope so that it does not directly contact a patient.

"This was truly a case of necessity is the mother of invention," said Giroux, 45…

Although guidelines call for practitioners to clean their stethoscopes with alcohol between each use, she says, "there truly is not time to wipe down a stethoscope every time you use it…"

Giroux, who spent part of her career in an infectious disease hospital unit, said she knew that for a protective covering for stethoscopes to be used effectively, it would have to be convenient and easily deployed by the worker.
Her patented design allows providers to clip a dispenser for the sleeves directly onto the neck of their stethoscopes. Ideally, each time a practitioner examines a new patient, he would apply a new StethoClean sleeve to his stethoscope in the same way he would change gloves, she said.

While there are products designed to cover a portion, usually the diaphragm, of the stethoscope, Giroux said her design attaches directly to the stethoscope and so is easily accessible during an emergency…

Giroux has partnered with a major manufacturer of barrier infection control products for the health care workplace, Microtek Medical Inc., based near Atlanta, to manufacture and market her new product.

Kurt Huelsman, vice president of Microtek, said he sees a healthy market for Giroux's invention because stethoscopes are widely used and have not been the focus of any prior campaigns to stop infection spread.

Think what could be accomplished if large numbers of hospitals sought to tap the expertise of their employees.

1 comment:

Dean Bliss said...

Great article, Ralph. I passed the information along to out infection control people to see if we can adopt this technique.