Are You a Hoarder Too?

We have all seen the news coverage of the local hoarder who calls 9-1-1 and can’t be rescued by first responders, because the first responders are unable to navigate their way to the patient. In fact, this same issue was exposed on a recent episode of Chicago Fire. Regardless, hoarding is a problem for people who just can’t bear to part with anything – no matter how needless the item. For some people, this can be a serious issue with severe consequences.

Sadly, you may also experience something similar to this phenomenon by opening the back door of an ambulance or pulling the curtain back of a local emergency room treatment area. It is not unusual to see piles of ‘clean’ linens stacked either on a bench seat, countertop or sticking out of a cabinet that can’t be closed due to the amount of ‘clean’ linen shoved inside. For these emergency workers, life is all about making the unsuspicious dash and grab of ‘clean’ linen whenever the opportunity presents itself.

They must grab the linens when they can, as they never know when, or even worse, if the opportunity will happen again. Dash, grab and stow!

Having been in the industry for a long time, I understand the situation. However, we must really take time to consider what it is that we are doing. Obviously, it’s important to have clean linens for the next patient (that will only be placed on the stretcher, exam table or bed AFTER it’s been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, right?).

Let’s back up and think about the stash of ‘clean’ linen for a moment. If we recognize the fact that pathogenic microorganisms enjoy being able to freely travel around spaces, shouldn’t we consider their ability to take residence on the ‘clean’ linen? Okay, some admit this is true, but it ‘s unlikely these items will have enough pathogenic load to be harmful, right?.

Well, this may be true, but let’s also consider the fact that when ‘clean’ linens are stowed openly in a space that’s exposed to pathogenic contaminants, it could easily be sprayed with pus from a rupturing abscess or blood from a chest tube incision.

Maybe these scenarios aren’t that frequent, but we’ve all seen people using the stack of ‘clean’ linen to stage an IV kit or someone trying to find a temporary home for a needle – “let’s just shove it through the linen pile (or mattress) until we can safely deposit it in a sharps container”.

Instead, perhaps we could wrap each set of linen in a clear trash bag and stow it in a designated location that has a maximum number of ‘clean’ linen sets that can be stowed there. If securing ‘clean’ linens is really a problem, perhaps we should consider disposable linen options or a contracted linen service. Either way, we really need to consider how and where we stow our ‘clean’ linens (and possibly seek therapy for our hoarding issues).


-Jason Thompson

About the Author

Jason Thompson has been involved in prehospital care, public health and healthcare administration since 1993 and brings an incredible passion for his advocacy concerning the assurance that all services, to the extent reasonably possible, should be provided in a space free of harmful microorganisms, furthering his commitment to helping those who are unable to help themselves.


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