There’s a line of nurses and staff at Good Samaritan Hospital waiting to place their phones, badges and keys into a microwave-sized box for fifty-five seconds.
The staff at the Vincennes, Indiana based hospital have been using ultraviolet decontamination boxes since May. The boxes use UV-C germicidal irradiation to disinfect whatever can fit.
Our goal is always looking toward a decrease in infections. This was just one additional safety measure.
The UV-C light renders microorganisms inert by destroying nucleic acids and DNA that allow them to perform vital functions, such as protein syntheses, replication, and repair. The process has been used since the 1950s, and as the technology scales in size from large to small operations, it’s gaining more attention to treat wastewater plants, food, water, and equipment.
“We ordered these before COVID-19,” says Mary Pargin, the Emergency Management Coordinator for Good Samaritan. “They finally arrived in May, which has been beneficial considering the Coronavirus.”
In addition to small personal items, the boxes are frequently used by staff multiple times a day for N95 masks, stethoscopes, and other medical PPE items, like goggles.
“Our goal is always looking toward a decrease in infections,” says Pargin. “This was just one additional safety measure.”
Robin McDonald is the Infection Prevention Nurse at Good Samaritan. She came across the idea for the UV decontamination boxes while attending the Association of Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology Indiana State Conference last year. The hospital now has four boxes in almost constant use. Employees from various departments are encouraged to disinfect their equipment when working on the nursing units.
“Fast touch” items such as phones, stethoscopes, flashlights, and ID badges are obvious vectors for infection, but they’re also cumbersome to clean adequately. Phone screens, for instance, have smudge-reducing coatings that degrade if wiped repeatedly with bleach or harsh cleaning agents. The UV boxes eliminate that problem.
“Staff are confident that when they’re handing off or carrying items in their pockets such as phones, they are not spreading germs,” says Angela Shick, the Director of Medical Nursing and Interprofessional Education at Good Samaritan. “The UV decontamination boxes help staff know they’re not taking infection sources from one patient to the next, or even home,” Shick says. “Multiple times a day they run by the box, insert their equipment or whatever they want to disinfect, and it just takes a minute. The fact that there is a line to use the machines shows that they trust what’s happening.”