Bacterial Contamination of Burn Unit Employee Identity Cards

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The purpose of this study was to identify the presence or absence of pathogenic bacteria on burn intensive care unit employees’ common access cards (CACs) and identity badges (IDs) and to identify possible variables that may increase risk for the presence of those bacteria. A prospective, cross-sectional study was conducted in our regional Burn Center in which bacterial swab specimens were collected from both the CAC and ID of 10 burn intensive care unit employees in each of five cohorts (nurses, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, physicians, and ancillary staff). Ten additional paired samples, collected from direct care staff in the outpatient burn clinic, served as control. Additional information described how the cards were worn and if/how they had been cleaned in the previous week. Fifty-eight CACs and 60 IDs were swabbed from participants. The overall contamination rate was 75%, with no trends identified based on how cards were worn. Bacteria were recovered from 86% (50/58) of CACs and 65% (39/60) of IDs, with CACs being significantly more contaminated overall than IDs (P < .01). In terms of potentially pathogenic bacteria, the overall rate was 3%, with 100% of those isolates coming from the outpatient clinic staff cohort (P < .001). When cleaned in the last week (n = 16), the contamination rate dropped to 50% overall (P = .003), indicating that even periodic cleaning appears to have a positive effect on bacterial contamination rates. The simple practice of routine identity card decontamination may reduce potential threats to patient safety as a result of nosocomial bacterial transmission.

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