Eyecare professionals have an unwavering commitment to protect patients as well as staff members from infections while in the office. In order to accomplish this hefty feat, all instruments that contact the patient’s ocular surfaces must be disinfected. Failing to do so can result in infections being transmitted:
- From staff to patient
- From patient to staff
- By direct contact between patients
- By contaminated instruments
- Via airborne transmission
Simply put, there are a vast number of ways, means, and opportunities where patients, staff, and eye care providers can be exposed to infection. Use the following information to protect everyone in the practice from eye infection.
Preventing Infections with Key Control Measures
All eyecare professionals should be familiar with key terms used to execute infection control procedures.
Disinfection is when you inactivate all pathogenic microbes. However, disinfection doesn’t necessarily inactivate all microorganisms. For instance, disinfection techniques tend to not work for protozoa, fungi, and bacterial endospores. In most eyecare practices, disinfection is achieved by using chemical methods or heat and water.
Cleaning equipment is the process of removing foreign material with detergents, water, or enzymatic solutions. This is vital to prevent dangerous concentrations of infectious organisms caused by dried tears, mucus, cosmetics, or tissue using cleaning and sterilizing products.
Cleaning requires you to scrub all surfaces of instruments to get rid of debris. Isopropanol alcohol may be used on insoluble deposits remaining on surfaces. However, it’s important to know that alcohol may damage certain materials, so it’s a great practice to ensure the cleaning agent is compatible with the surface being cleaned.
Sterilization is a practice designed to remove every and any microorganism, including bacterial spores. In most instances, sterilization involves autoclaving, which is a process of exposing the instrumentation to high pressure and temperature.
One of the most cost effective and efficient methods of in-office sterilization is a small tabletop steam autoclave unit. Contrary to popular belief, boiling and the use of UV light are not acceptable methods of sterilization.
Ensuring Safety with Reprocessing
One of the key methods to ensure all hazardous material is removed is to reprocess instruments. Reprocessing involves the disinfection and cleaning and/or sterilizing a reusable device.
Once the instrument is completely sterilized, it’s known to be in what is called a hygienic state cleanliness. Instruments in a hygienic state have very little to no threat to others, while sanitary conditions are clean and physically healthy.