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The big question: should cleaning be part of the nurse remit?

The recent report revealing that Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Foundation Trust left nurses to disinfect beds has sparked comments from our readers to say they also carry out cleaning duties.

So should cleaning be made a nursing task? Would this help to improve infection control or are nurses simply too stretched to take responsibility for this area? What do you think?

Add your comments and they could be published in the magazine.

Readers' comments (73)

  • If I wanted to be a cleaner do you think I would have undertaken a 3-year University course???? Mind you I could probably make more money, and have more respect by cleaning for a living!!

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  • WHAT!! Since when have nurses not cleaned beds? I only moved to Primary care 3 years ago - has the job changes so much in that time?
    Cleaners are there to do the general cleaning but why do some nurses think that clearing up is beneath them? (sometimes even their own mess).

    Yes, we nurses are highly trained and skilled, but ensuring the ward/clinical area is clean is surely part of patient care, health and safety, infection control etc, & therefore everyones responsibility.
    P.S. Do cleaners work 24/7 in some hospitals? If not - is everything just left to pile up until one is on duty?????

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  • hopefully it is an exception but I have come across a couple of nurses who can't even keep their own homes clean, not to mention those who stole our underwear off the washing line in the nurses' home. one of these two nurses was a retired matron of a London teaching hospital who kept hens and goats in her kitchen and the other I stayed with and was unable to sleep all night because I heard a mouse under the bed and had a visit from her cat at 6 am! I wouldn't even describe the state of her bathroom and living room!

    My mum was also a nurse and at home we could have eating off the floor and I assumed all us nurses had such a strict respect for hygiene as have all my other nursing friends.

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  • As an Infection Control Nurse I have realised in the last couple of years just how much 'art and science' is involved in cleaning effectively (yes, really!). To clean and disinfect clinical environments effectively takes a lot of knowledge and care, and my clinical cleaning course for cleaners in the community is the most popular course I run.
    I suppose what I am saying is that nurses should not consider it beneath them to have to clean their environments/mattresses etc. (Nurses will always have a certain amount of cleaning duties anyway, such as specialist equipment, preparation for minor surgery etc, and need to have an understanding of how and why they are doing this). However, I believe that they do not have the capacity to take on wider cleaning duties with the other duties that they have to do, and I would rather invest in more cleaners, with adequate training, who are empowered and motivated to do their job properly and are included as part of the infection control 'team', leaving the nurses to do their 'nursing' duties.

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  • We clean beds, lockers, tables, chairs and bedside equipment when a patient is discharged.

    We clean up bodily fluids regardless of where they are.

    We don't 'deep clean' infectious areas, I can't imagine many nurses have the time to spend at least an hour on a terminal clean, changing the curtains etc. That is the house-keepers job.

    Oh yes, we also clean our patients which is the most important thing really isn't it?

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  • We clean bed spaces, lockers, beds etc when patients go home, and clean up after ourselves, but if a deep or bleach clean is needed we call for serco staff to do it. We haven't got the time to do those cleans ourselves. I think this government would have us do everything, and take a pay cut too.

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  • we cleaned up our own mess as well as that of the patients we looked after and other colleagues' patients too if they were not available. we also made it quite clear that the doctors also clear up their own mess too and it was not our role to clear up after them - a few didn't like it but most were only too willing and didn't see it as our role either - we all got on much better that way.

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  • Nurses already do a lot of cleaning, the domestic staff clean the toilets, bathrooms, deep-cleans, floors, bins and all that stuff. What exactly are we being asked to do here that we don't already do, of course nurses should do basic cleaning.

    But no, nurses should not be doing deep-cleans, how can a nurse cleaning the toilets and infected rooms reduce infection rates?

    I'm all for non-patient contact staff serving meals. At the moment nursing staff wash patients, wipe bottoms and then serve the meals - gross.

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  • Why is the Nursing Times asking this question? Are there no Nurses in the NT ( apart from Jenni Middleton)?

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  • We have a 24 hour housekeeping service who come and carry out deep-cleans in the infected areas. We as nurses always clean bedspaces inbetween patients.

    Why has this article been written? Is there any hospital where nurses do not clean bedspaces when a patient leaves?

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  • Cleaning ??

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  • I don't mind cleaning as long as the doctors, admin staff, pharmacy staff, matrons and consultants are drafted in to do their share as well. After all we are all there for the patient's benefit!
    I've been nursing 40 years and we didn't clean in the 'old days' despite what some on here will have you believe.
    I started training in 1972 so all those who are from the 'damp-dusting' days are probably retired now.
    Nurses gave up the cleaning to have more patient time. Let's not go backwards please.
    I will refuse to clean...not because I am above it (in my younger days I worked as a cleaner to supplement my crap pay) but because it has no place in today's nursing and is only being introduced as a money saving exercise, not as a way of improving patient care.

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  • Anonymous | 2-Aug-2012 2:52 pm

    "We clean beds, lockers, tables, chairs and bedside equipment when a patient is discharged.
    "We also clean up bodily fluids regardless of where they are."

    I am both amazed and appalled by these statements!

    Is "cleaning" REALLY part of a professional Nurses job description ?

    I can envisage the Nurse Vacancy advertisements concluding with:-

    "All applicants must demonstrate in -depth knowledge of the "NHS national Specifications for Cleanliness" and be in possession of NVQ 7698 (Level 2)" A willingness to fulfill the role of Hospital Domestic Service Operative is a requirement of this post"

    Those of you who support and participate in environmental cleaning meet all the dreams of Chief Executives and their sycophant Director of Nursing side kicks!

    Profession Nurses should be NURSING not pushing mops!

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  • Anonymous | 4-Aug-2012 6:50 am

    so you expect a mop-pushing lackey to run around after you clearing up any mess you or your patients have made? oh, dear!

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  • anon 6.50

    Why are you amazed and appalled. What happens where you work when a patient is discharged? We often have 10 patients go home in one day on one ward, do you think we just leave the beds empty until a domestic comes along and cleans it?

    As for bodily fluids - do you think we just leave vomit, urine or faeces around until we can get a domestic?

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  • Anonymous | 4-Aug-2012 9:04 am

    I do not work in the UK!

    I work in an A/E which as part of the 24 hour team has "housekeepers" who ensure the environment is maintained(plenty of nasty spills here!) and that the patient trolleys are cleaned and have fresh linen.

    Nurses care for patients !

    Did I read somewhere here that your Government is going to reduce your Salaries in recognition of all this cleaning Nurses do in the UK?

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  • Anonymous | 4-Aug-2012 9:04 am

    Where I work empty "used" beds are collected by porters and taken to a central depot where a clean bed is collected and returned to the ward.
    Depot staff make sure the bed is meticulously cleaned and re-made before it is made available for re-use.

    If I remember correctly such a system was in operation at the Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry. (A long time ago now - does anyone recall?)

    I guess that now management can employ cheap cleaning staff in the form of nurses such schemes are no longer necessary.

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  • Anonymous | 4-Aug-2012 9:35 am

    in a bed disinfection centre beds are cleaned professionally using specially trained staff and industrial machines. I doubt whether the same standards are achieved by nurses on the ward. We damp dusted them with disinfectant before sending them to this centre so that they were socially clean but this superficial manual cleaning is obviously insufficient. This system as all other hospital hygiene was under the aegis of the medical/nursing infection control team.

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  • anon 9.15 - do you work in a country where patients have to pay for their treatments on top of taxes. If so do you know how much of this money goes towards a 24hr housekeeping or bed disinfection service?

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  • Anonymous | 4-Aug-2012 11:48 am

    which countries pay on top of their taxes except those in the UK who chose extra private insurance?

    I think people in countries where they pay for their healthcare do not pay taxes towards it as well although it may be partly funded through tax and partly through private subscription but I don't imagine (except in the UK) they would have to pay twice.

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