KNOXVILLE (WATE) - If a child is hospitalized, the last thing a parent wants to worry about is whether the surroundings are clean enough to ward off infection.
Melissa Smith is one of those parents. Her 10-year-old daughter, Madison Monday, has just completed her latest round of cancer treatment at East Tennessee Children's Hospital. Her immune system is fragile.
Smith says, "it's extremely important that everything remain clean, sanitized as possible, so that she doesn't get a new infection introduced."
To protect patients like Madison, Children's Hospital is now using a gadget called the Clean Trace System by 3M. It's a breakthrough hand-held germ detector.
The hospital uses it to check surfaces in a room after it is disinfected to make sure it is as bacteria free as possible before the next patient comes in.
Michael Priestap, Director of Environmental Services, demonstrated how the germ detector works by testing a bed rail that had just been sanitized.
He swabbed the area, placed the swab into a special tube, and waved it like a magic wand.
Results were revealed on the device in under 30 seconds.
A score of between 200 and 400 RLU is considered clean by hospital standards.
As Priestap noted, "it shows a score of 50. 400 would have been acceptable. 50 is fantastic."
Darci Hodge, Director of Infection Control, said, "when you see it in black and white like that it's 'yes!' because we have proof to our patients and ourselves that we do a good job."
Priestap tests the opposite bed rail using the same methods, before it's been disinfected to show us the difference in results.
Remember, anything under 400 is considered a safe amount of organic material.
The score here? Over 2,000.
As Priestap reiterates, "it's unacceptable, if that's what you find after you clean it."
The Clean Trace System device, just a bit larger than a TV remote, is used to detect germy surfaces on 17 "high touch" areas in a hospital room at Children's; areas like the nurse's call button, the sink, and the door knob, which can be crawling with bacteria invisible to the naked eye. The hospital has been using the technology for about a month.
Some dangerous germs can cling to a surface for five months if they're not wiped or mopped away using correct cleaning methods, including bleach.
The device doesn't identify each germ. It just picks up on how much organic material is on a surface.
The goal is to cut the risk of health care associated infections like pneumonia and other illnesses that can have a devastating impact.
The device cost the hospital more than $2,200. It's a small price to pay for patient safety and a parent's peace of mind.