In a world where antibiotic-resistant infections are becoming more commonplace, it’s important to understand how to properly sterilize medical storage carts. Hospitals, doctors’ offices, and other medical facilities are a breeding ground for germs and harmful bacteria, and portable medical carts can be vulnerable if proper sanitization procedures are not followed.
While surfaces are not considered to be as critical as surgical equipment and other tools, they can still contribute to the spread of an infection or disease through contact with the skin that then touches the eyes, nose, or mouth. While most surfaces only come in contact with intact skin, bacteria from the air or items placed on the surface can still settle and be transferred onto the skin. It’s important to not only clean your medical cart but also disinfect and sterilize it frequently throughout your shift.
Critical, semi-critical, and noncritical equipment
When discussing sterilization of medical equipment, there are three categories of items that are found in a healthcare setting. Critical equipment includes items that will come into contact with sterile human tissue. These are the instruments that are used in surgery.
Semi-critical equipment includes items such as endoscopes, bronchoscopes, and colonoscopes, which will come into contact with mucous membranes within the body. Noncritical equipment includes items that will come into contact with intact skin, such as stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs, and X-ray machines. If there is a cut or scrape in the skin, these noncritical surfaces can pose a more serious risk.
Cleaning is not the same as disinfecting and sterilizing, although we tend to use the term as a synonymous idea. Cleaning is actually getting all the dirt, dust, grime, and other foreign material off a surface that is about to be disinfected and sterilized.
If you have trash from supplies, tools, pens, or other items on top of your medical cart from your work, you must first remove these and make sure the surface is clear and ready to be disinfected. This is the first step before the microbes and bacteria can be removed from the surface.
The next step to sterilizing your medical storage cart is to disinfect it. This is done with an FDA- or EPA-certified detergent or disinfecting chemical spray, usually a low- or intermediate-level disinfectant. Most disinfectants must be left on the surface for between 30 and 60 seconds before being wiped and allowed to dry.
The sterilization process for medical laptop carts comes with the choice of disinfectant. Many facilities choose to use disinfectant wipes, which are easy to attach to the cart and wipe down quickly. The disposability of these wipes also prevents cross-contamination from occurring between patient rooms. The drying and wiping process of the disinfectant leads the surface to be considered “sterilized.” Some facilities prefer to follow the disinfectant wipes with a hydrogen peroxide wipe or bleach.
It is a much simpler process than sterilizing medical equipment, which is often done with steam, dry heat, ozone, or ultrasound waves.
Healthcare-Associated Infections, or HAIs, cause about 75,000 deaths and cost between $97 and $147 billion each year. One in 25 patients will become infected with an HAI during their time in a hospital, and most HAIs occur outside of the intensive-care unit.
HAIs are usually preventable and are caused by inadequate sterilization procedures. This is why it’s vital that surfaces, equipment, and tools used in hospitals be properly disinfected and sterilized in between treatments.
Common HAIs include:
- Staph infections
- Surgical site infections
It’s the responsibility of medical professionals to ensure their equipment, including their medical carts, are properly sterilized to ensure safety for themselves and their patients. A simple cleaning and disinfecting wipe may be all it takes to help prevent the spread of a dangerous HAI.