Lab Safety and Hygiene, An option or a must?

Being a Medical Lab Student, or as we’d like to call it “MLSPians”, it’s hard not to think of every item you pick up as a source of contamination! After studying and going over most of the pathogens that exist in our environment and their modes of transmission and infection, it’s hard not become a hygiene freak, where cleanliness is a priority as much as food and water are.

Still, we sometimes find ourselves  unaware of the contaminants we might be transporting from our hospital to our community by the mere fact that we are not properly isolating the objects we use inside the lab from the objects we use outside! For example, we use the same pen to write the reports in the lab while wearing the gloves that we touched tubes and specimens with, and to write our notes during classes. We might even lend those pens to classmates unaware of where that pen might have been. Some people also have a nasty habit of biting on the back of the pen facilitating a much more dangerous route for oral transmission of diseases. Cell phones pose a similar problem. Students and staff alike tend to pick up their phones from their pockets to check the time or answer a call or a message without contemplating the possibility of contamination and the contamination of every object that comes into contact with the phone (pockets, purses and their contents).

Even though we might remember to take off the gloves or wash our hands before taking it out, virtually every surface in the lab is contaminated and placing a phone, book, or paper anywhere in the lab may lead to contamination. Although it may be obvious, we sometimes tend to overlook these incidents whether absentmindedly or on purpose, possibly to showoff “indifference” or “toughness” about the matter. However, we all know there’s nothing “cool” about disease and sickness, especially if our careless actions lead to the illness of our loved ones. The solutions to this problem are clear, as they have been laid out in the lab safety rules all MLS students have committed to memory through the course of our education.

We need to think carefully about our actions in hazardous environments and their potential effects. We must emphasize the need to isolate items we use in the lab from the outside environment, and changing our gloves every once in a while helps reduce the risk of contamination considerably. We must also keep our guard up during lab activities (i.e. we shouldn’t “get comfortable” and throw our stuff around the lab or slack off on performing the routine hygiene procedures). I raise these issues not to inspire fear among the non-medical lab community at AUB. Rather I raise these concerns to serve as a reminder to students, faculty, and staff in the MLS program of the importance and benefits of good lab hygiene and safety practices.

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