The nursing bag is like a portable hospital supply room. Everything you need to provide effective client care is carried inside. But did you know that your nursing bag could be one of the dirtiest things you carry into a client’s home?
Irena Bakunas-Kenneley PhD, APRN-BC, CIC and Elizabeth A. Madigan PhD, RN, FAAN conducted a study (2009) that tested nursing bags from four different home care agencies. On the outside, a surprising 84 percent of the nursing bags tested positive for human pathogens. Inside, 48.4 percent of the bags tested positive for human pathogens.1
Your nursing bag technique is one of the most important parts of your nursing job. Use these top three tips to keep your clients healthy and safe.
1. Only put clean things in your bag.
We are quick to tell a young child, “Don’t put that in your mouth! It’s dirty!” The same rule applies to your nursing bag. Avoid putting dirty things in your bag, including your hands. The easiest way to steer clear of making this mistake is to keep your bag closed until you are ready to use it. Only after you have washed your hands, using proper handwashing technique, should you open your bag.
Before opening your bag, think through the steps you will take to provide the best client care. Doing so will ensure you are not going back into your bag to take things out. After setting up your clean, disposable barrier, take everything you need out of your bag and put them on the barrier. Then, close the bag to keep the inside of your bag clean. If you do forget something you need from your bag, you will have to wash your hands again.
When you have finished providing client care, disinfect everything that needs to go back into your bag with either 70 percent isopropyl alcohol or an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered germicidal wipe. Leave the items out to dry on your clean barrier, wash your hands, and place your clean items back in your clean bag.
Helpful tip: If something isn’t clean enough to go in your grocery bag, don’t put it in your nursing bag! This includes your sharps container and lab specimens.
2. Keep the outside of your nursing bag clean.
If you think about all the places your nursing bag goes, it might gross you out. As a nurse, part of your job is to stop the spread of pathogens from client to client.
Due to the nature of the job, your bag will travel from home to home. It is vital that you are aware of where you place your bag. A general rule to follow is, “Only put your bag in a place you would be willing to put your food.”
Hopefully that is not the floor or right next to where you are performing client care, especially if bodily fluids are involved. Those are not good places for a lunch and therefore, not a good place for your bag.
When you put your bag down:
- Place it on a clean, hard surface
- Use a disposable barrier underneath
- Hang it from a doorknob or the back of a hard chair
No matter how careful you are about where you place your bag, you need to clean the outside regularly.
At least once a month, or when your bag is visibly soiled, empty everything out of your bag. Wash the outside and inside of the bag with hot soapy water, rinse and dry. After you disinfect the inside with an EPA registered germicidal wipe, check that your supplies are not expired or damaged and restock your bag.
The practice of regularly cleaning, checking and stocking your nursing bag makes your nursing job easier. You can feel confident that you are always prepared when you walk into a client’s home.
3. Store your nursing bag in a clean place.
Once you leave your client’s house, your bag needs to stay in a clean place. This tip is for your protection!
It’s best not to throw your bag in the front seat of your vehicle (beside your coffee cup and half-eaten bagel). You run the risk of picking up and spreading more pathogens that way.
The best place for your nursing bag is in a plastic container in the trunk or cargo space of your vehicle. Helpful tip: Have two boxes clearly labeled “clean supplies” and “dirty supplies.”
Your clean supply container will hold:
- Your supply bag
- Disposable client care supplies (such as boxes of gloves, personal protective equipment, catheter kits and irrigation fluids)
Your dirty supply container holds:
- Your sharps container
- Lab transport bag
- Items that will need to be cleaned
Plan to clean both supply containers monthly — the same time you clean your supply bag.
When you treat your nursing bag with care and keep it clean, you can confidently provide your clients with the best possible care, showing compassion, excellence and reliability.
1. Bakunas-Kennely I, Madigan E. Infection prevention and control in home health care: The nurse's bag. Amer Journal of INfect Control. 2009.