ROANOKE, Va. — Because I have written columns for the past 20 years, I periodically get questions from readers about articles I have written.
Recently, I received a follow-up question on an article I wrote about the collection of soiled linen and whether it was better to have a linen hamper in every room or the traditional system of having several hampers to cover a specific area.
A nurse is conducting a study to try and implement the soiled-linen hamper stand in every room and wanted to know if there were any studies that had been conducted with empirical data as to which method was best.
Unfortunately, I know of no such studies, but I will attempt to once again shed light on this subject. In full disclosure, I spent 44 years running healthcare laundries and do not like any system that might negatively impact a processing facility. The negatives related to a covered soiled-linen hamper in each room are the following:
- A large increase in the number of hamper stands required for the facility. A good covered hamper stand will run somewhere between $120 and $150 each.
- The increased number of hamper stands will result in increased maintenance of the stands.
- It is very likely that the increased number of hamper stands will result in a significant increase in the use of soiled-linen bags.
- If the hampers are used properly and only changed at discharge or when full, the laundry will experience a need to greatly increase its circulating linen inventory. This is a more important consideration if you are using an in-house laundry. Money spent on circulating inventory decreases either capital budgets or money for salaries. Some external vendors will charge additional for this inventory that was not planned for in the initial proposal.
- The longer that linen sits in a soiled state, the harder it can become to get clean.
- There might not be adequate space in the patient room to allow for a hamper stand to safely be placed there.
- More time is required for soiled-linen collection because housekeeping is often required to empty the hamper stands when full.
- It takes longer to clean a patient room daily because the lid and metal parts of the frame should be cleaned daily.
- An increased inventory level of bags because each hamper stand will need their own backup supply.
The possible advantages to such a system are as follows:
- Less time is required for handling soiled linen by nursing personnel.
- Shorter transit time from site of collection to hamper may result in less chance of nurses’ clothes being contaminated.
- Less cluttered hallways. Most hospital hallways already have way too much equipment in them. By removing hamper stands, we reduce the clutter.
- Better nursing morale. In a highly competitive healthcare environment, recruiting and retention of nursing staff is always a key consideration.
The bottom line is that there is no one best answer to this question. It would take a team of laundry professionals, housekeeping management, materials managers, infection control practitioners and nursing personnel to develop all the numerous items that would need to be considered to conduct such a study.
The best answer is: what works best for your facility or your unit when all the factors listed above are considered. In large hospitals, ICU/CCU often have hamper stands in the room while medical-surgical or outpatient areas use several soiled-linen hamper stands to cover a given number of rooms.
Each hospital must look at the issue and decide what is best for it.