By Stephanie Williams, RN, former case manager
My patient shouted and snapped the fingers of her free hand as I performed a fingerstick blood glucose test, but her efforts were fruitless. Her plump tabby cat, Stuffins, had gingerly stepped onto my nursing bag, which was on the floor at my feet. The cat patted it down with his paws, peered directly into my eyes, and peed. Naturally, that was the end of my poor bag.
I knew all about the importance of hand hygiene, but to me, "bag technique" was just the skilled way in which I brought all my groceries from my trunk to the kitchen in one trip. It wasn't until joining my second agency as a home healthcare nurse that orientation videos taught me never to set my bag on the floor. Instead, it should be placed on an elevated surface covered with a water-resistant drape—or, if no suitable surface is available, hung from a door knob.
Putting this new skill into practice right away helped me slow down and greet my patients more personally as I put down a drape and take out my equipment. Our agency also had a policy of cleaning our equipment in front of the patient before use. During this process, patients might start telling me about an issue they've been having, or maybe about the pie their neighbor dropped off the night before.
My favorite part of "bag technique" is the reminder it gives me that, much like hiking and camping etiquette, I'm expected to leave no trace of my visit in my patients' home. That includes unwanted germs from the outside. It also shows my patients that I'm mindful of my commitment to their care and protection.
If not for Stuffins and his discerning bladder, I wouldn't have such a great anecdote to share with colleagues and nurses I train for home visits. Learn from my mistake. Keep your bag high and dry.