infection control - is it just me?


Hello friends and neighbors,

I work in a small community hospital, and I've been there for five years. From 2001 to last July, I was a unit clerk on the Med-Surg floor. We have mostly "semi-private" rooms on the floor - ie, two beds in a room, if you're a patient you may or may not have a roommate. When we would have one patient in a room with two beds, it used to drive me crazy to see visitors using the second bed. I'm not talking about sleeping in the bed to stay overnight with their loved one. I'm talking about cramming three or four people on to the bed as you would a couch, spreading out a fast food picnic, lying down on the made bed, fully stretched out with shoes on; I've seen more than one visitor use the empty bed as a changing table for a diapered child. :eek: None of the other staff seemed to mind this when I asked about our policy for it; my manager said, "well, I suppose it is a cleanliness issue," and that's the last I heard from her about it. So I became a one-woman team advocating either covering the empty bed with a layer of bath blankets to keep the bed cover clean, or using signs on the empty beds that I found, that basically said, "this bed is ready for our next patient, please help us by staying off the bed and maintaining a safe patient environment." I offered chairs like you wouldn't believe, and tried to keep plenty of the signs on hand so that other staff could place them as necessary.

So, last summer, I got my nursing license, and went to working in our 5 bed CCU. When the CCU is empty, one of the two nurses is usually downstaffed, and the other nurse usually floats out to Med-Surg. So that's what I was doing last Sunday night. I had a team of patients on Med-Surg, and wouldn't you know it, when I arrived at 7p, one of my patients had 5 or 6 visitors crowded on the couch - I mean empty bed in his room. :rolleyes: After the visitors left, I changed the bed cover and placed a clean layer of bath blankets over the bed for the next time they visited. Out of curiosity, I then went looking for my old stash of signs, and couldn't find any. I then started wondering, ok, all this time, am I the only one who sees something wrong with visitors contaminating clean items that will come into direct contact with other patients? I mean, if I were admitted to a semi-private room in my hospital, how would I know whether my blanket had been host to outside germs, fast food crumbs, muddy shoes, baby diapers... Am I the only one who thinks clean items should not be exposed to handling/use by visitors for another patient?

you can tell me if I'm just being anal, I won't mind! :)



suzanne4, RN

26,410 Posts

You are 100% correct. I am quite surprised that the manager is permitting this. Perhaps it is something that you should take to administration. I definitely would not want to be placed in a bed that is essentially considered used. :angryfire

Specializes in Med/Surg, Ortho.

If noone is in the bed (patient wise) there should not be anyone or anything on the bed. When i go into a room and find a patients family using the other bed to diaper a baby, lean on,, sit on,, whatever, i ask them to please stay off the bed incase we need it for another patient. Then i offer a private room if one is available for the extra charge. We have signs that the housekeeping staff put on the beds after they are cleaned following a patient discharge and usually they stay until a patient is admitted. They have some little cute saying like "Please dont sit on me, keep me clean for my next patient"

People are usually very good to abide by our wishes and requests regarding the other bed. If they dont,, we will usually block it until the patient leaves and clean both beds. There isnt much more you can do.


2,228 Posts

That used to be a big "no-no". Nobody seems to pay any attention to it anymore. Maybe they're afraid of "offending the customer" .


1,062 Posts

Specializes in ICU, psych, corrections. Has 8 years experience.

I've personally kicked patients off empty a student nurse. What was sad is that I had to kick the same person off the same bed, not once, not twice, but three different times. I considered posting some infectious sign on the bed in hopes of making it less appealing. The housekeeper actually did say something to the man and he proceeded to ask me for a chair.

Melanie = )

SharonH, RN

2,144 Posts

Specializes in Med/Surg, Geriatrics. Has 20 years experience.

No, you are absolutely not being anal. It's too bad that all people can't be so conscientious. I also continue to be extremely disappointed at how thoughtless people can be by using that other bed.


21 Posts

Thanks everyone for your replies. I feel more confident in my position now. I'm going to ask the manager to address this at the next unit meetings (our Med-Surg and CCU have the same manager and joint unit meetings).

suzanne4, RN

26,410 Posts

Please let us know what can always get the CFO involved. Especially after they find out how much linen is being "wasted" due to visitor issues. :)


222 Posts

Specializes in OB. Has 10 years experience.

You're not anal... you're being a good nurse. We also have semi private rooms at my facility and it bugs me to no end when I constantly have to ask the patients and their visitors are to stay on their side of the room. We've even had to put all side rails up on the unoccupied bed and pull the curtains around it. We've used signs and reinforced the 2 visitor at a time rule... and still we find the curtains get pulled back, the side rails end up down and the other bed gets "soiled" because people are so inconsiderate. Not only that, but visitors will turn the other television on, too, just because they don't want to watch what the patient has on! And of course, they look at us like we're the bad guys for telling them they can not do this. Ultimately, we just put the next admission in the other bed which ends their luxury of a "private" room. Good luck with addressing this to your manager and hopefully, you can get this problem resolved.

Specializes in Inpatient Acute Rehab.

We have mostly private rooms in the hospital where I work, but we do have some 2-bed rooms. There are a coouple of things we do to prevent visitors from getting on the empty beds... We either leave the bed in the high position and/or we keep all 4 siderails up on the beds until our patient is arriving on our unit.

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