A device small enough to fit in a pocket was creating a conundrum for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where visitors are required to clean their hands – not just a little clean, but hospital clean — upon entering. Parents willingly complied, but within minutes were reaching for their cell phones.
Parents were asked to contain their phones inside a plastic bag. “You can take pictures just fine through plastic,” said NICU Manager Raquel Armstrong. “But they didn’t like it, and as soon as you’d turn around, the phone would be out.”
The only alternative seemed to be a ban on phones, but “we really didn’t want to do that,” said Armstrong, because early bonding is so crucial for babies, affecting their health now and in the future. For a parent working full time, video chats promote bonding. For siblings, faraway grandparents and other important players in the newborn’s life, cell phones allow them in.
Armstrong found a solution in UV light, which can kill bacteria and viruses on surfaces. UV light is not a substitute for other cleaning methods, but is being added to the weaponry used in hospitals to kill germs capable of lingering in hard-to-clean places.
The NICU acquired two UV sanitizing devices for phones. Parents place their phones inside the device, lock down the lid and let the machine do its thing while they’re at the sink. By the time their hands are clean, so are their phones.
“All the literature supports that this is effective,” said Eleena Bower, director of Infection Control at JPS, who worked with Armstrong on NICU’s acquisition. And keeping personal electronic devices clean is a key component in disease prevention. “Anything that can live on a surface can live on your phone,” Bower said.