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Notes from the field: “Doctor, what is that in your hand?”

I was almost done with my mock OSHA inspection in an OB/GYN office, and the last section of my survey covered decontaminating and disinfection.

One of the physicians was leaving an exam room holding a metal vaginal speculum in a paper towel. I could not believe what I was seeing! Luckily I didn’t collide with him, but I saw him soon enough to follow up on my concern.

But before that, I immediately conferred with the office manager to see exactly how the practice handled this issue. I found out that the physicians always wrapped the vaginal specula in paper towels and dumped them in/on the sink. Whoever had free time washed them with soap and water, using a brush to remove the debris. The specula were then placed on the autoclave tray to be processed.

On other mock inspections, I have seen staff members carry the vaginal specula out of the exam room in a dishpan, no lid, no soaking solution.

Believe it or not, I have heard that some practices have actually placed the washed specula in the break room dishwasher [1]!

OSHA regulations clearly define vaginal secretions as OPIM (other potentially infectious material) therefore specific decontamination policies must be followed.

These are the guidelines I have implemented for my clients using metal vaginal specula: