Many of us are concerned about carrying the coronavirus home with us to our loved ones, which could occur even after outpatient care of asymptomatic patients. In addition to following the infection control recommendations of your organization and wearing personal protection equipment (PPE), here are some other practices to consider.
Stanford University infection control experts have recommended four easy ways to decrease your risk of transmission to individuals in your home:
- Wash your hands before you leave work
- Wash your hands when you get home
- Wear different shoes at home and at work, or wash your hands as soon as you take off your shoes.
- Disinfect the common touch surfaces in your home and in your car once each day. (Don't disinfect cutting boards or any item that comes into contact with food.)
University of Iowa infectious disease specialist Mike Edmonds, MD, recommends wearing nothing below your elbows at work (e.g., rings or wristwatches) to allow for more thorough hand washing. He also recommends against wearing neckties.
The following list is gathered from a number of sources, and more for you to consider, depending on where and how you work.
- Wear washable clothes at work. As soon as you are home, place your clothes in the laundry, and change into clean clothes. Many are showering before getting into clean clothes. Some are showering and changing into clean clothes immediately before leaving the hospital.
- At a minimum, thoroughly wash forearms and hands before joining your family.
- Only take into the workplace the essentials – badge, pager, keys, and cell phone. Avoid taking bags (e.g., purses or backpacks) into patient care areas and then home again. Stow these items away from patient care areas.
- Wipe down your personal work areas before and after use (keyboard, telephone, and desk surface) whenever possible.
- Put your cell phone in a sandwich bag on entering work and discard the bag before you leave the building. It will work in a sandwich bag!
- Wipe down your phone, pager, keys, and badge with disinfectant wipes before entering your home or upon entering your vehicle. If you haven’t been able to locate disinfectant wipes, use paper towels and household cleaner to make your own.
- Wipe down your steering wheel and other frequently touched controls when you enter your vehicle.
- Remember to practice social distancing while at work – in team work stations and the break room. This can be harder than it seems! Most of our team work areas were not designed to maintain six-foot distance between team members, and we may not be used to cleaning the table surface before and after we eat in the break room.
- Lastly, don’t consider work your only potential exposure. Carriage rates in the asymptomatic population mean we need to be vigilant whenever encountering other people – such as grocery shopping.
Thank you for all you are doing for our communities.
Marygrace Elson, MD
President, Iowa Medical Society
Additional Donning & Doffing Resources:
American College of Emergency Physicians COVID-19 Personal Checklist
CDC: Strategies to Optimize the Supply of PPA Equipment
NETEC: Personal Protective Equipment for COVID-19