HealthDay News — Stethoscope hygiene is rarely performed by trainee physicians, according to a research letter published online in the Journal of Hospital Medicine.

Ian Harold Jenkins, MD, from the University of California in San Diego, and colleagues observed student and trainee physician stethoscope hygiene performance during hospital medicine rotations

Stethoscope hygiene was observed at three sites over an 11-month period. Overall, 352 opportunities for stethoscope hygiene were observed. Trainees were unaware that their stethoscope hygiene performance was being recorded. 

The researchers found that doctors or students used stethoscope hygiene in 16% of the opportunities to do so (58 encounters). Twenty of these events occurred after a trainee observed an attending physician performing stethoscope hygiene. 

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Excluding events that were triggered by an attending physician, stethoscope hygiene was performed in 11% of 332 opportunities. The rate of stethoscope hygiene performance was significantly higher in isolation versus non-isolation rooms (82.7 versus 4.6%; P < 0.001). Ninety percent of the isolation room stethoscope hygiene events involved use of an isolation stethoscope, compared with 10% that involved a personal stethoscope.

“Stethoscope hygiene is rarely performed by trainees,” the authors write. “The very low rate of stethoscope hygiene after contact with non-isolation patients represents a current and potentially serious safety threat.”


1. Jenkins IH, et al. J Hosp Med. 2015; DOI:10.1002/jhm.2359.