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Containing Sharps



In another step in the green direction, Hopkins Hospital recently converted to a reusable sharps container program that is also safer and more cost effective than its traditional disposable system. The new vendor, Bio Systems, a division of Stericycle, the largest certified medical waste disposal company in the nation, now makes rounds at the hospital five days a week to change out the containers filled with syringes, scalpels, broken glass and other sharps. The contents get shipped to a processing plant, autoclaved and sent to a landfill; the containers are treated with a disinfectant and sent back to the hospital for reuse.

“The company gives us reports on how much waste we’ve saved,” says Colleen Cusick, clinical products specialist in materials management. Since its implementation in April, the program has cut down on the single-use containers significantly. Plus, since the containers are designed with a vertical drop through a funnel-like lid (vs. a mailbox slot), “there’s a lot less opportunity to get stuck.”

Gina Szymanski, a nurse manager in adult oncology who piloted the new system on Weinberg 5A, says the only trade-off was having another outside group on the unit involved in care. “You have to teach them about isolation, about knocking first and what to say when they enter the patient’s room. They have to understand what the expectations are.” Still, she likes the fact that reusable containers are better for the environment, safer and more convenient—especially for the support associates who used to be responsible for the task.

With the new company, “they’re in and out and I’ve got an empty container after they’ve been there,” says Szymanski. “From my standpoint, it has been a very positive experience.”

–Mary Ellen Miller



Johns Hopkins Medicine

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