Infection prevention is critical for many hospitals. Your facility likely disinfects high-touch surfaces regularly to prevent the spread of germs that can sicken patients. But it’s also important to pay attention to another area of the hospital – the floor. Research shows it may be harboring more harmful bacteria than once thought.
While hospital floors are cleaned regularly, they aren’t often given the same care as areas patients regularly touch. In many cases, floors aren’t cleaned when new patients are admitted to hospital rooms unless they’re visibly dirty or soiled.
However, according to a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control, more effort may be needed when cleaning floors, since they may be contaminated with dangerous germs that spread infections.
Presence of bacteria
In the study, researchers looked at five hospitals in Ohio. As written in an article from Medical News Today, they took cultures from the floors of multiple patient rooms and examined them, looking for various types of bacteria.
For comparison, they also took samples from high-touch surfaces in these rooms, such as medical supplies and devices, linens, clothing and call buttons, as well as from the hands of hospital staff.
When looking at the cultures taken from hospital floors, researchers discovered that they were commonly contaminated with various dangerous strains of bacteria, including MRSA, C. diff and vancomycin-resistant enterococci (commonly known as VRE).
Even worse, researchers realized that many high-touch items in hospital rooms came in contact with the floor, picking up these bacteria. And when clinical staff touched them or removed them from the floor, the germs ended up on their hands.
Implications for facilities
It’s tough to determine if bacteria on floors directly contributes to infections in patients. But since staff and patients regularly touch objects that make contact with the floor, any germs they’re exposed to could spread quickly throughout a facility, negating careful efforts to disinfect surfaces.
Further research is planned to examine just how much of an impact germs on hospital floors could make on infection rates. In the meantime, researchers stressed the importance of telling patients and hospital staff that they should avoid putting any high-touch objects on the floor – and to practice general hand hygiene habits if they must remove something from the floor or touch something that’s been in contact with the floor (such as a shoe or sock).
And since it’s not feasible to eliminate all contact with the floor, it may be a good idea to look into using different type of disinfecting cleansers for hospital floors. Typical floor cleaners don’t contain sporicidal disinfectants, designed to kill bacteria spores that spread illnesses like C. diff. Another option would be to use ultraviolet room decontamination devices, which have stronger germ-fighting powers than most floor cleaners.
Ultimately, being more vigilant about cleaning hospital floors could be an important way to limit infections in hospitals.