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Dome - A Better Cleaning Formula

Dome October 2014

A Better Cleaning Formula

Date: October 6, 2014

Changes to the way operating rooms at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center are cleaned increase patient safety and staff engagement.


From left, Woodrow Cooke, Yolanda Century, India Jacks, Ahmend Brown and Krystle McCormick are taking more pride in their collective efforts to keep the ORs clean.
From left, Woodrow Cooke, Yolanda Century, India Jacks, Ahmend Brown and Krystle McCormick are taking more pride in their collective efforts to keep the ORs clean.

Thoroughly cleaning an operating room after it is closed down for the day is important to controlling infection. In a quest to improve patient safety, Kathleen Pressimone, a perioperative patient safety nurse, decided to learn how well her hospital, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, was performing this task.

At the suggestion of Lisa Grubb, director of infection control for the hospital at that time, Pressimone and Jeanne Sedgwick, a clinical nurse specialist for perioperative services, marked surfaces with a special lotion that is invisible to the naked eye but glows when lit with a black light. After marking several of the 14 operating rooms in this manner, they checked back after the rooms were cleaned.

The first results, in the fall of 2012, were discouraging: Only about 40 percent of the marks they had painted showed evidence of being touched. Since then, however, thanks to a collaboration between the infection control department, patient safety specialists and a dedicated group of operating room assistants, the percentage has more than doubled. It now hovers around 95 percent.

What’s more, the effort has brought about a new level of teamwork, says operating room assistant Ahmend Brown. “When Kathleen and Jeanne would come through and say, ‘Oh, look, you got 100 percent [of the marks],’ it made us feel good. It was our job, but the recognition made us feel special and made us want to do the work even more.”

The improvement is primarily credited to three changes: clarifying the operating room assistants’ job descriptions, creating a new training course to ensure that team members fully understand the cleaning procedures and devising a system that allows them to clean an operating room without being interrupted to perform other duties.

Once these modifications were in place, says operating room staff supervisor Eric Ausby, workers pulled together to achieve top scores. Morale has also improved along with the results. “We started helping each other out more,” Brown says. “Now it’s like, ‘You got my back, I got yours.’”

Christina DuVernay