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It's not only healthcare professionals' responsibility to prevent the spread of infections

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After noting an infection control risk in an Apple store, Josephine questions if healthcare professionals really are the main culprits when it comes to spreading infection

I walked into the Apple store on Covent Garden, London, with my fingers crossed that I wouldn’t be placed on their one and half hours or more waiting list. It was October and, as usual, the store was buzzing with people.

A customer service staff member approached me as soon as I walked in, asked me what I needed help with and promptly informed me that I needed to join a queue on the right.

I looked to my right, and saw one of those long queues that made me wish I was IT savvy enough to fix my own Mac. “Oh well”, I thought. “Queue I must”.

However, as I approached the queue, I heard the familiar sounds of coughing, sniffing, nose blowing and wheezing throughout the queue of people waiting to get an appointment booked. You know, the one I was asked to join.

Ok, don’t get me wrong, but in this season of flu, cough and cold, I really would prefer not to participate in the lemon and honey mix while tucked under a duvet in shivers.

“Before I knew it, my nurse’s hat was on again”

As I stood waiting, I noticed that the customer service person at the front of the queue had an iPad in his hands as he booked people in. But there was something else. He checked the items that customers had with them, shook some of their hands and swiped the iPad to book their appointment.

The next thing that came to my mind was infection control, hand washing, alcohol gel. Before I knew it, my nurse’s hat was on again.

The question was, how much infection control happens in stores like these? I looked around the store and saw the same all over this large space - lots of people and Apple customer services staff taking apple products from people, touching, swiping, giving back the items.

“Who can say where or how infection really starts from or who spreads it fastest?”

I wondered what would happen on a respiratory ward if nurses passed items around as fast as this without washing their hands while coughing and sneezing into their hands. Ok, this is not a hospital, but who can say where or how infection really starts from or who spreads it fastest?

By this time, I decided that I was not going to shake hands with the now ‘possible host for infection’, but I stayed on the queue to ask my usual questions. 15 minutes later and it was my turn. Keep your hands to yourself, I wanted to say, but I did not and instead I had the following conversation with the customer service person:

Me: Hi. How many people do you serve, touch their Apple products and shake hands with in a day?

Him: Hello. We work shifts here, but quite a lot of customers queue for appointments

Me: Do you use hand sanitiser or do you have one with you?

Him: What is that?

Me: You are touching the screen of your iPad, touching customers’ items, shaking their hands, and then passing the same iPad to the next staff on shift, right?

“I could not help but wonder about the number of times hospitals and health professionals have been accused of spreading infections”

Him: Yes

Me: Some people on the queue are coughing, sneezing and wheezing without covering their mouths, so you need to use a hand sanitiser to stop the spread of infection or wash your hands frequently

Him: Ehmnnn I think we might have one downstairs but I’m not sure and I’ve never used one

Even as I walked out of the store and chose an e-repair customer care instead, I could not help but wonder about the number of times hospitals and health professionals have been accused of spreading infections. I wonder if sales reps, customer service assistants, deli counter staff, butchers and stores like Apple may require health promotion interventions to inform and educate them on the need for proper hand care as a way to promote infection control and stop the spread of disease.

After all, effective hand hygiene through proper hand wash or the use of alcohol-based hand sanitiser is the single most effective way to stop the spread of infection.

Josephine NwaAmaka Bardi, mental health nurse

RMN, ESRC PhD Student, University of Nottingham

Founder of RAMHHE - Raising Awareness of Mental Health in Higher Education


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