Let’s Get Back to Basics.

by Karen Swecker, MedFlight Exposure Control Liaison

Did you know there are more than 23,000 deaths a year directly caused by healthcare acquired infections? That is equivalent to a 747 airplane crash every week for an entire year.

There are more than two million healthcare related infections (HAI) in the U.S. each year. One out of every 31 patients develop an HAI. How many patients did you personally take care of last year; How many developed a bloodstream infection from your IV start, developed ventilator pneumonia, or an infection with MRSA or VRE due to care provided in the time it takes to transport them?

Cell phones carry 10 times more germs than the average toilet seat. How many times did you touch a cell phone or radio dial to give report on a patient you were transporting? When is the last time you cleaned your phone or the radio knobs in the aircraft or mobile unit? Bacteria such as MRSA and VRE are viable and able to cause infections for more than 51 days from contaminated surfaces such as plastic cell phone covers and radio knobs. CRE (antibiotic resistant E. coli or Klebsiella) caused an estimated 13,000 infections and 1,100 deaths in 2017. C. difficile causes 12,800 deaths a year in the US.

Healthcare acquired infections are easy to prevent. Sanitizing your hands, equipment, and surfaces are a must. Remember to change gloves and cleaning wipes frequently as both become saturated with bacteria that is easily transmitted to and from surfaces and equipment to patients.

A 2014 study culturing 112 stethoscopes showed 47% of them were contaminated with 50 different potentially pathogenic bacteria (Leo- Lara, MD, Munoz, MD, & Campos-Murguia, MD, 2014). A study of the effectiveness of disinfecting wipes showed bacteria was moved from surface to surface due to increasing bacterial lodes on the wipes (Cheng, Boost, & Wai Yee Chung, 2011).

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought more attention to the need for increased hand and surface sanitizing. As healthcare workers we’ve been taught the importance of cleanliness but due to the pressures of critical care it’s easy to let this basic necessity slide. Once COVID-19 has been defeated, or at least contained, remember the lessons we’ve been taught. Hand hygiene and surface disinfecting must remain a priority in caring for patients. Do not let your patients be part of the 23,000 a year that succumb to healthcare acquired infections.


Cheng, K., Boost, M., & Wai Yee Chung, J. (2011). Study on the effectiveness of disinfection with wipesagainst methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and implications for hospital hygiene. AJIC, 577-580.

Leo-Lara, MD, X., Munoz, MD, J., & Campos-Murguia, MD, A. (2014). Stethoscopes as Potential Intrahospital Carriers of Pathogenic Microorganisms. AJIC, 82-3.