Clinic waste technical manager Luke Rutterford discusses the importance of waste management and infection control training
In all areas within the aesthetic clinic, and indeed throughout the healthcare profession, staff training is essential to ensure the whole team knows and understands their responsibilities. This involves everything from the clinical treatment delivered to patients, to record keeping, complaint handling and infection control procedures. Staff require ongoing training in each area to ensure they have the knowledge and skills to maintain the highest standards of care.
Infection control, in particular, remains an important aspect of staff training. As pathogens develop, new research is published and new products are being created to deliver protection, so it is crucial that those with a means to manage the risk in the clinic are kept up-to-date. An essential part of infection control – in addition to frequent surface disinfection and effective hand hygiene – is waste management. Both surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures produce a wide range of waste items that must be discarded in a safe way. Further to this, efficient waste segregation is key to protecting the environment and ensuring the disposal of different waste streams in the most appropriate way.
It goes without saying that staff need the know-how to maintain a safe environment for patients, hence the need for training on the topic. It is also a regulatory requirement for all healthcare providers that they undergo appropriate training in the areas of infection control and the management of clinical waste.
The Health and Social Care Act 2008; Code of Practice on the prevention and control of infections and related guidance states that ‘all relevant staff, whose normal duties are directly to indirectly concerned with providing care, receive suitable and sufficient information on, and training and supervision in, the measures required to prevent risks of infection’.1 It goes on to highlight the importance of safe handling and disposal of waste, stating a need for all providers to:
To do so, precautions in regards to handling must include training and information for the professional team. The Health and Social Care Act 20081 mandates induction training for new members of staff and ongoing education for existing staff, which is widely recommended to be an annual refresher. An up-to-date record of all staff training must also be kept.
Other legislation governing waste management includes: The Environmental Protection Act 1990 (including Duty of Care Regulations),2 The Controlled Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2012,3 The Hazardous Waste Directive 20114 and The Carriage of Dangerous Goods Regulations.5 These all cover slightly different areas of the waste management and disposal process, but The Environment Protection Act 1990 is probably the most important, stating that all producers of waste have a duty of care to ensure the correct management of waste is performed. All members of staff therefore need to be aware of these regulations and the requirements they set for infection control processes and waste management.
So, what should training cover? The content of training will vary slightly between education providers and clinics, and will often be tailored according to the professional workflows and procedures performed within the clinic. In general, key topics for waste management should include information and demonstrations on waste segregation, best practice guidelines for colour coding waste streams and details on the use of the correct waste containers and bags.
Segregation and the colour code
All waste produced should be separated according to the risk it poses to patients, professionals, public health and the environment. The Department of Health’s guidelines6 for best practice waste segregation outline a colour coding system by which to separate different waste streams. Consisting of ‘clinical and infectious waste’, ‘medicinal waste’, ‘dental waste’, 'clinical and highly infectious waste’, ‘anatomical waste’, ‘cytotoxic and cytostatic waste’, 'offensive waste’ and ‘mixed municipal waste’, the guidelines allocate specific colours to make segregation easier and quicker. Waste must be further separated according to its state; liquids and solids must be placed in different waste containers, waste sharps in rigid sharps containers and only soft clinical waste in orange or yellow bags.
Training should be given on how to deal with any accidents with or spillages of waste, to ensure the safety of staff and patients alike
Training should be provided to all members of staff who might come into contact with clinical waste and be responsible for disposing, handling or moving it. They need to know what waste items are allocated to which colour and what type of container each waste stream requires. They should also be aware of the requirements for the storage of waste when bags or containers are full, the collection details and information that must be provided along with the waste when it is picked up by the waste contractor. They may also be interested to learn more about how different waste streams are repurposed or disposed of. Finally, training should be given on how to deal with any accidents with or spillages of waste, to ensure the safety of staff and patients alike.
With a considerable scope of topics and routines to be mastered by all professionals in the aesthetic clinic, it’s necessary to consider the best ways staff members can learn all of this. It is widely acknowledged that different people absorb and retain information in different ways, with the key methods being visual, audio and kinaesthetic, although many people will prefer a combination of two or more of these learning styles.7
This style of learning involves seeing things in situ and using colour and illustrations to explain important processes. There are two sub-channels – linguistic and spatial.8,9 Visual-linguistic learners tend to prefer studying written language, making notes for retention of information and often remembering details by reading through a list of instructions, for example. Visual-spatial learners usually do better with diagrams, charts, photos, or even demonstrations and videos, where they can watch a process to learn what it involves. Meeting the visual learner’s needs, providing written materials with diagrams and imagery during training, and displaying flow charts around the practice afterwards can be helpful.
Many of us have the experience of working with someone that likes to talk to themselves as they are performing a task. This tends to be a sign of an auditory learner, as they repeat information of each step of a process out loud to remind themselves of what comes next. When learning something new, they are likely to prefer listening to audio books or discussing a subject with a colleague to really understand it. To integrate this style of learning into staff training, it’s worth ensuring that short summaries are provided at the end of each section, and creating an environment where staff can ask and be asked questions is also beneficial to the audio learner.
This group of learners can also be separated into two further categories – kinaesthetic (movement) and tactile (touch). These people will normally concentrate better in the presence of external stimulation or movement, as well as getting involved in demonstrations and learning a process from the experience of taking part. They might also benefit from training delivered off-site, or by participating in quizzes and physical exercises to retain the most information. Applying this to the learning environment for aesthetic practitioners might involve the use of music, active engagement of the audience and role play activities that get learners up and moving.
With several preferred learning methods likely among your team, and many often preferring a combination of styles, a blended approach will usually be the most effective and will therefore encourage the best return on investment
A perfect blendIt may be useful to ask staff what their preferred methods of learning are, so you can tailor training to their needs. With several preferred learning methods likely among your team, and many often preferring a combination of styles, a blended approach will usually be the most effective and will therefore encourage the best return on investment. If considering external training, finding a flexible provider that will deliver the course content at a time and in a way that suits all your staff is a must. There might even be cost-efficient packages available that include annual refresher training for staff. In addition, some waste contractors offer added value by providing customers with access to online learning portals that cover a huge range of topics, including waste management and infection control, which the team can access whenever and from wherever they wish and, critically, as often as is required.
Staff training isn’t something to worry about later – it is essential that all members of the team know exactly what is required of them in terms of waste management and infection control from the moment they start work in an aesthetic clinic. Induction training, appropriate supervision and regular refreshers are key to ensuring all members of staff stay up-to-date in the field, ensuring your waste management is as effective and as efficient as possible and that your staff, patients and the environment are protected from harm.
Disclosure: Luke Rutterford is the clinic waste technical manager at Initial Medical, which provides waste and infection control services