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Throwing out pillows!? Does anyone else do this!?

Posted

I'm admittedly a bit of a tree hugger so it bothers me to see waste in general. It makes me cringe at work to see waste. I worked a lot with this one nurse who if a sheet/blanket/towel was moderately/heavily soiled and I don't mean with HIV laden blood I just mean poop or urine she would throw it out! I recently saw her throw out a pillow with a little poop on it! She said would say things like "there's no way the laundry service can get that clean" but I'm pretty sure they do. I say that because people throw poop laden towels in the linen bins all the time and I've never seen an unused towel with poop on it.

I'm sure the laundry service that specifically cleans hospital linens has already thought of this 'how will we sanitize things covered in poop or urine' Also I'm sure they have to meet rigorous standards set by whatever organizations governs that kind of thing.

And there's so many other instances of unnecessary waste, when I worked in the ER if a pt came in with a full bag of lets say NS hung by EMS and the MD ordered a 1 liter NS bolus I would just let the EMS bag run. Why toss it like so many nurses do? I know you have to restart field lines within 24 hours because they're "dirty" but a bag of fluids?! C'mon they're packaged just the same as the hospital bag.

Or when you walk in to an incontinent pt's room and there's like 6 unopened bags of peri wipes, 2 tubes of barrier cream, 8 towels and 4 chux pads. Not only does it drain the main supply room but when the pt leaves all that extra stuff gets thrown out, I like to be prepared to but within reason, only take what you need and maybe one extra for the next shift. Especially if the patient's only gonna be there a day or two, all this waste adds up. It all just factors in to the rising cost of healthcare/taxes/drains on our paychecks (in the big picture/long run) etc.

duskyjewel

Specializes in hospice.

The next time she complains about not getting raises, remind her of how many thousands of dollars she's probably thrown out. At my workplace, one of our heavily promoted cultural beliefs is "spend wisely." The financial health of our agency determines whether we have jobs and benefits, so spend it like you own it.

Have you approached her about this? What was her response? Perhaps you should contact your supervisor, and without naming any names, say you've witnessed this happening and that a reminder and some staff education might be in order. If high costs from waste are linked up with the ability of the organization to provide jobs and benefits, maybe that will hit home.

PS we use pillows that can be sanitized between patients, and as a CNA cleaning them is one of my jobs. I only throw them out when the outer layer is ripped, because that means the ability to completely sanitize is lost.

The next time she complains about not getting raises, remind her of how many thousands of dollars she's probably thrown out. At my workplace, one of our heavily promoted cultural beliefs is "spend wisely." The financial health of our agency determines whether we have jobs and benefits, so spend it like you own it.

Have you approached her about this? What was her response? Perhaps you should contact your supervisor, and without naming any names, say you've witnessed this happening and that a reminder and some staff education might be in order. If high costs from waste are linked up with the ability of the organization to provide jobs and benefits, maybe that will hit home.

PS we use pillows that can be sanitized between patients, and as a CNA cleaning them is one of my jobs. I only throw them out when the outer layer is ripped, because that means the ability to completely sanitize is lost.

Well the first few times I saw her do it each time I jokingly said something like "wow why'd you throw that whole blanket out?" to which she would say something like "it's too dirty would you want to use that blanket after it was washed" to which I replied "yea, well I'm sure the laundry service must have a pretty heavy duty cleaning process" and then the conversation would end. Each time pretty much went like that. After a while I stopped saying anything because I already had expressed my opinion, she obviously disagreed and I can't micromanage someone and beat a dead horse. But it's really a shame to see waste like that. I didn't think of talking to a supervisor, maybe I'll consider mentioning it at the next meeting or something. I wouldn't say her name but maybe just maybe say something like "I observed a staff member..... and I think a couple other's are wasteful as well, maybe we can review how financial waste impacts us in the next monthly meeting."

Edited by paramedic-RN
added something

nursej22, MSN, RN

Specializes in med/surg,CV. Has 36 years experience.

OMG, our director's head would explode if she saw a staff member do this. We get linen usage reports monthly and reminders of the linen policy, which includes never discard linen. We have a special hamper for torn and stained things and they get recycled for rags.

Does your coworker discard mattresses or chairs? I'm guessing she never used cloth diapers.

Muser69

Specializes in Critical care. Has 42 years experience.

In the past our hospital used disposable pillows and recently went back to vinyl covered. I still throw these out. The amount of stool and other bodily fluids that cover these pillows can't possibly get disinfected by a quick swipe of a cleaning cloth. I would never want one of these pillows next to my face. Ugh. Wonder if the administrators would.

BrandonLPN, LPN

Has 5 years experience.

In the past our hospital used disposable pillows and recently went back to vinyl covered. I still throw these out. The amount of stool and other bodily fluids that cover these pillows can't possibly get disinfected by a quick swipe of a cleaning cloth. I would never want one of these pillows next to my face. Ugh. Wonder if the administrators would.

Do you mean you throw the pillow out after each discharge?

In the vast majority of cases, wiping the pillow off with a disinfectant wipe and applying a clean pillowcase is perfectly fine.

applewhitern, BSN, RN

Specializes in ICU. Has 30 years experience.

Is your employer aware of the waste? I am like you; I try hard to control expenses, because my continued employment and future raises depend on it. I have worked for 2 different hospitals that went bankrupt. Our linen service claims that the method they use is completely adequate.

applewhitern, BSN, RN

Specializes in ICU. Has 30 years experience.

In my 25 years of nursing, I haven't noticed patients dropping dead right and left due to unclean linens. If proper cleaning policy is followed, there shouldn't be a problem.

SeattleJess

Specializes in None yet..

... The financial health of our agency determines whether we have jobs and benefits, so spend it like you own it'''...

Fabulous motto! I'm going to start passing it around where I work.

SPEND IT LIKE YOU OWN IT.

Thanks, dusky!

Here.I.Stand, BSN, RN

Specializes in SICU, trauma, neuro. Has 16 years experience.

I work for a county hospital, so stewardship of resources is always an issue. In fact once our managers e-mailed our unit pictures of all of the extra unused supplies (lab tubes, Mepilex sacrals, IV start supplies, etc.) from a pt's bedside cart following their transfer to the floor. Pillows are a doubly precious resource not only because of their financial value, but their short supply when we use SO many for positioning our pts. (Four for the limbs, 1-2 behind their backs, and one under their head if they are able.)

We put linens completely soiled with large amounts of stool and blood in the laundry all the time. They come back to us without even a stain--pristine white. Not only do they come back visibly clean, but they come back safe from an infection control standpoint. I'm sure our laundry services could get pillows clean too.

BrandonLPN, LPN

Has 5 years experience.

Fabulous motto! I'm going to start passing it around where I work.

SPEND IT LIKE YOU OWN IT.

Thanks, dusky!

If I "own it", then I am dramatically underpaid.... and where are my stock options?

Fiona59

Has 18 years experience.

Pillows get tossed only when the lovely vinyl cover is punctured. We have a lovely (insert eyeroll) guy in anaesthesia who would put his sharps in the pillow after using them (super safe or what). He quickly stopped that after sending a patient out with the sharp stuck in the pillow above the patients head and the incident poop storm of a report from nursing. It wasn't a one off, either, we had to toss 8 pillows on one shift and he did this for ages.

The odd face cloth goes in an incontinence product. Special bag for torn or overstained clean linen for recycling into rags.

I will always remember one patient who tried to leave the hospital with one full black trash bag filled with sheets, towels, pillowcases, flannel sheets. We didn't know whether to feel sorry for her wanting our linens or amazed at the sheer brass neck of her. When she was stopped she felt they belonged to her because she was a taxpayer and we wouldn't miss it. Never mind the fact that she was on social services and hadn't worked in five years.

Muser69

Specializes in Critical care. Has 42 years experience.

I have seen our housekeeping dept clean rooms and pillows. Trust me you would not want one of these pillows next to your face. I throw out every pillow when a pt is transferred/ discharged. I don't worry about the budget ,I worry about how I would want to be treated as a patient.

Rose_Queen, BSN, MSN, RN

Specializes in OR, education. Has 16 years experience.

We only toss pillows that no longer have an intact impervious cover or those used to position extremely messy trauma patients during surgery that are seriously soaked. Even with the cover, we've seen a few where blood has seeped in between the seams. Unfortunately, we've also had to do this with some of our (rather expensive) bean bags used for lateral positioning after the suction used to keep the bag taut to hold the patient also sucked blood into the bag itself. Still better than reusing it on another patient. And if I'm ever in the hospital, you can be guaranteed that I'm bringing my own pillow!

blondy2061h, MSN, RN

Specializes in Oncology. Has 15 years experience.

Our pillows are plastic covered and don't go to laundry. We wipe them with a bleach or ammonia wipe when they're visibly soiled or between patients. Most of the time it does the trick. Sometimes they rip or have a stain beyond what I could possibly get off with a wipe. Then I toss them. I've done this to maybe 2 pillows in the last six years, so not like it's a regular occurrence.

I have seen our housekeeping dept clean rooms and pillows. Trust me you would not want one of these pillows next to your face. I throw out every pillow when a pt is transferred/ discharged. I don't worry about the budget ,I worry about how I would want to be treated as a patient.

But the pillow gets a cover? Your face is on the cover not the vinyl. If you're gonna go that far well think of all the times another nurse helps you change someone and then with urine on their gloves they touch the side rails and the bed buttons and the pt sheets. We do it without thinking but start watching people. Barrier creams are the worst people touch those with poop covered gloves and then it goes back on the counter/table. And then us and the patients touch all that stuff what about that? disgusting germs are everywhere it's a hospital. Also if you want to see pt's continue to have high levels of care the hospitals can't be bankrupt then we wont' have pillow for pt's because they're all getting thrown out and the hospital won't keep restocking them. Then it's going to be really hard to provide the care you want to provide when each pt on the floor can only have one pillow.

Rose_Queen, BSN, MSN, RN

Specializes in OR, education. Has 16 years experience.

But the pillow gets a cover? Your face is on the cover not the vinyl.

We use standard pillow cases over the vinyl impervious pillow. They are not impervious, and I've seen pillows stained with god knows what along the seams. Still bringing my own pillow if I'm ever admitted.

Edited by Rose_Queen

Modern hospital or healthcare linen laundries are more than capable of dealing with moderate to severe soiled and or bio contaminated items. In fact the laundering process for hospital linens going back decades has been tested and shown when properly done not only produces clean product but at levels of sanitation perfectly suited.

There were in the old days and still are for all one knows machines in hospital laundries or such places that clean and sanitize pillows and even mattresses. These were mainly in the days before plastic/vinyl or other impervious material covered bedding. With today's modern coverings long as they remain intact precious little including fluids is getting past.

Am that gobsmacked that a nurse takes it upon herself to routinely dispose of hospital property without clear guidelines and or authorization other than her own say so. Heavily goo, poo and spew bed and bath linens were sent to the wash without nursing staff concerning themselves with making "extra work" for the laundry. Today of course such linens must and should be labeled as bio-hazard so the laundry knows what it is getting in advance, but still.

All commercial laundries and or those responsible for maintaining linen supplies have procedures and guidelines for dealing with linens that remain stained even after laundering. Such items are normally saved until there is enough to make a full load and put through a "reclaim" laundering cycle. This involves normally using much stronger bleaches and alkalis along with higher temperatures to remove the offending stains. If this does not work and or the items remain deemed unfit for service they are removed by demoting to "rag" status. Then they may be sold off for such purposes or otherwise disposed. What is important is that the institution or linen service (whomever owns the stuff) can take a write down against the loss for whatever value remains. That and or capture same by selling off the "rags". By chucking the item into the rubbish the nurse in question not only deprives the facility or linen service of said potential value but throws the linen counts out.

In every facility person or persons know how much linen is purchased and what is discarded by count. When things do not match it becomes a problem. With scrubs it was then and still is often theft suspected hence the machines that dispense the things based upon return of soiled.