Beard covers are nothing new—we’re all familiar with the debate on whether they should be required or voluntary.  

But we want to set aside the opinions for a little bit and spend some time going over the standards for beard covers that has been outlined in the AAMI guidelines. While the AAMI standard is nothing new, a recent reawakening to the issue has taken place, resulting in this standard being more stringently monitored. Now today, beard covers are expected.

Is your sterile processing department prepared?

The main reasoning behind enforcing beard covers falls right in line with the biggest goal for most hospitals: to offer patients a safer experience and guarantee a positive outcome for each case. Foreign matter like beard hair falling into an instrument set in the sterile processing department or into a patient in the surgical suite inhibits those goals. The easiest way to prevent these kinds of incidents from taking place is to mandate beard covers.

That’s why AAMI outlines in ST 79, 4.5.1.e that “all head and facial hair (except for eyebrows and eyelashes) should be completely covered.” AORN also says that “Personnel entering the semi-restricted and restricted areas should cover the head, hair, ears, and facial hair ” (AORN, Aseptic Practice, RP III).

The standards can’t be anymore clear; this isn’t a compliance issue that we can pick and choose from. As managers, you have the ability to enforce this guideline in order to protect patients against infection which, in turn, protects staff and the hospital from having to deal with the consequences of an infection event. This makes the cost of beard covers seem minimal in comparison to the alternative that could take place if this issue is skipped over.

Plus, with a variety of styles available, you can pick one that is best suited for your facility as well as your staff members. Find one that works, make them available to your team, and enforce the guideline as part of your department’s attire. If you find resistance from your staff, provide them with reliable information on the issue—help them understand the potential negative outcomes that can result from an absence of beard covers. In doing so, you can help them understand that this is not just something that is enforced to make life miserable, but rather, that it is a decision with the potential to save the hospital and individuals from lawsuits.

Author: David Craig, CRCST, CIS, CHL, CCSVP, CFER


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