Do you disinfect your steth after each use? A new study says you should

iStockphoto | ThinkStock + Scrubs

iStockphoto | ThinkStock + Scrubs

Do you disinfect your stethoscope after each use?

A new study reveals that the contamination level of a stethoscope diaphragm after a single use is “comparable to the contamination of parts of the physician’s dominant hand.” The study also found that the stethoscope tube can become contaminated, too.

Published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, the study concludes that stethoscopes may play a part in transferring bacteria from patient to patient, and should be disinfected after each use.

“By considering that stethoscopes are used repeatedly over the course of a day, come directly into contact with patients’ skin, and may harbor several thousands of bacteria (including MRSA) collected during a previous physical examination, we consider them as potentially significant vectors of transmission,” wrote the authors of the study. “Thus, failing to disinfect stethoscopes could constitute a serious patient safety issue akin to omitting hand hygiene.”

Specifically, the study finds that stethoscopes should be cleansed after every clinical use.

“Our findings provide strong evidence of the potential for stethoscope-mediated transmission of microorganisms and the need to systematically disinfect stethoscopes after each use,” the authors of the study wrote.

However, the study did not look at how stethoscopes should be efficiently and safely disinfected after each use, or how this can be done without damaging the stethoscope over time.

What do you think, nurses? Do you disinfect your steth after every use? Do you think doing so would help prevent the transmission of bacteria?

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3 Responses to Do you disinfect your steth after each use? A new study says you should

  1. Nurse.mar

    During one of my recent clinical rotations, a nurse gave me this tip: put a glove over your stethoscope when examining a patient. This reduces the number of times you have to disinfect it and the patient doesn’t feel a cold stethoscope.

  2. Pearl

    I always used an alcohol swab before and after using my stethoscope. Just second nature for 35 years.

  3. DVorah_RN

    I wipe the diaphragm down with an alcohol swab after every use.