I have a question about earmolds and infection control. What precautions do I need to take when the impression is taken from a patient with Cytomegalovirus (CMV) or Healthcare-Associated Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (HA-MSRA)?
Regardless of patient status, the mantra of infection control is to treat every patient as if that person is a carrier of a potentially infectious disease. Exceptions should not be created as to how to handle an earmold impression based on what we happen to know about the patient. Much of the time, you may not know what is actually going on with the patient in terms of overall health.
Audiologists are required to follow profession-specific work practice controls that have been designed to eliminate or at least minimize the potential of cross infection when audiological services are provided. Infection control guidelines for any situation should be based on standard or universal precautions such as: wear protective barriers when appropriate, wash hands, clean and disinfect touch and splash surfaces, sterilize critical instruments, discard waste appropriately.
Based on the general guidelines just mentioned, understand that there are multiple "right" ways to handle the cured earmold impressions. Here is an example protocol that you could use:
- While impression material is curing, open the earmold box and fill out the order form. Once you complete your paperwork, fold it so that it is prepped and ready to place into the earmold box.
- When you are ready to remove the earmold impression, put on appropriately sized gloves.
- Remove earmold impression(s) and immediately place in box, taking care not to make contact with any other surface, including outside of the box
- Position the paperwork in box
- Remove your gloves and wash your hands immediately.
- Without making contact with inside of box, close earmold impression box and immediately place in overnight shipping pouch
- Clean and then disinfect surfaces where work was performed.
A.U. Bankaitis, Ph.D., is Vice President and General Manager of Oaktree Products, Inc. in St. Louis, MO