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Reusing sterile pouches

So I am a dental assistant. I have worked for this private practice for 3 years. We reuse sterilization pouches. I have never been comfortable with it but when i confront my doctors of this matter they firmly disagree with me. It is frustrating because when I do speak up it goes in one ear and out the other. I am to the point where I want to quit. There is a whole bunch of things that I dont agree with and wonder how do they get away with it? Everybody that works in the back all agree with me.
We actually have an audit coming up and I dont know if I should be the one to say something or if this is going to somehow backfire on me. What should I do?



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2 Answers

Thankyou so much I definately will say something. Its time to move on. This is the only office I have worked at.I got the job right after graduating school. It is time to move on. Thanks again

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You are 100% correct to be uncomfortable about reusing sterile pouches, it’s a big no-no because when reusing pouches there’s no guarantee the instruments are sterile. A fellow hygienist, Noel Kelsch, RDHAP, who is an infection control expert explains it best:
 
“The material that the bags are made from was developed to expand when exposed to the heat, moisture, and chemicals. This allows the heat and chemical to enter the bag. As it cools down, it shrinks and seals the contents from the outside atmosphere. The material was made to do this only once. Reusing bags is risking your patients’ health as the material will not expand and shrink again, and there is no guarantee that sterilization has been achieved or maintained.”
 
Further, OSAP, OSHA, and the FDA state:
Single use disposable items must be disposed after each use. Therefore, sterilization wraps and bags that are not designed for reuse should be disposed of after each use. Reusing single use sterilization wraps/bags/pouches can result in loss of chemical indicator ability, insecure sealing of the package, and an inability of the material to maintain sterility of the contents after processing.
(http://www.osap.org/?FAQ_Instrum_Ster2 last question on the page)
 
Is your office conducting the required and mandated yearly OSHA training? If not, that in itself is an OSHA violation. Means you’ve already brought this up to the doctors to no avail, I think it’s time to contact OSHA directly. It sounds like OSHA needs to conduct an inspection of your office. When they are there, be honest and tell them that the staff, including yourself, have expressed your concerns to the doctors multiple times and they still require you to reuse sterile bags. If you don’t have annual OSHA training, that needs to be brought up to them as well. It can only backfire on you if you don’t do something. If you are let go, for these very valid concerns and contacting OSHA, that’s a whole other situation where the doctors are wrong and legal action can and should be sought.
 
Personally, I wouldn’t feel comfortable working in an office that puts patients at risk. Maybe it is time to move on. If you do move on, still report to OSHA. There are wonderful offices out there that treat their patients right. You should work in an office that shares your same patient care standards.

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