For years now, hospitals have been using lanyards as a way to identify staff and help manage people. When everyone has a form of identification hanging from their necks, it makes the whole operation run more smoothly. Patients can identify medical professionals they haven't met before. And department staff can work out who's who - helpful in medical facilities than employ lots of people. 

Recently, though, hospitals have been considering the type of material that they use for lanyards, looking to improve on current options. The hope is that new materials will foster better infection control, thereby decreasing the chances that patients will contract communicable diseases while on wards. 

The desire to make these changes comes primarily from some shocking results in the academic literature about how everyday hospital objects can spread infection. In 2008, researchers writing in the Medical Journal of Australia investigated the badges worn by healthcare workers to see whether they offered protection against the spread of bacteria. The investigation recruited seventy-one workers at a medical teaching university and followed them through time to see how much pathogenic bacteria lived on their badges.

The results were a wake-up call. The investigators discovered that hospital badges, including those worn around the neck, were carriers of some pretty nasty microbes including staph and MSSA. It was clear that hospitals required a better solution. Their current approaches to naming and identification just weren't good enough. Name tags were just as likely to spread disease as other known risks, such as pens, jewellery and stethoscopes. 

The Benefits Of Lanyards In Hospitals

The problem for medical institutions, though, is that lanyards and name tags offer substantial benefits. Getting rid of them isn't without costs. 

Lanyards, for instance, are one of the safest forms of identification. Unlike badges that rely on pins, lanyard cords unclip from the neck when tugged. So when they get caught on equipment or patients pull them, they detach quickly, protecting the person wearing them. Emergency staff, in particular, benefit from them. They need a form of identification that tells people who they are while providing safety features that prevent accidents. 

Lanyards are also a critical component of hospital safeguarding strategies. The fact that they are customisable allows medical procurement officers to tailor them to their specific facilities, making them harder to copy. Patients can quickly identify people associated with the hospital by the design of their tag. And hospital security can see staff ID cards instantly, preventing unauthorised access to vulnerable patients. It seems like a win-win. 

Why Hospitals Are Turning To Silicone Lanyards

But there's a problem. While lanyards offer hospitals massive utility, they don't always eliminate the infection risk. And that means that many are reluctant to use them as ubiquitously as they might, were the infection risk absent. 

There's some good news, though. Some rather talented lanyard makers have begun using silicone - a material that's been in development since the 1930s. The elastomer provides all of the benefits of a regular lanyard, while also being antibacterial. 

Research shows that microbes can't grow on silicone. There's nothing that they can break down and use for energy, so they can't colonise it, or use it as a vector to spread to patients.

For this reason, the material is of great interest to hospitals. They want all the benefits of lanyards, but also solutions that will help them keep hospital-acquired infections under control.

Silicone Lanyards

Silicone appears to be a kind of wonder material that provides just that. Like regular lanyard options, it offers all of the practical and safety benefits. But additionally, it seems perfectly suited to the hospital environment. Just like stainless steel, it inhibits the growth of bacteria. 

You should note, however, that silicone will not prevent bacteria from growing on substances that contaminated the lanyard cord. Blood, dirt and other residues will all still allow them to grow. 

But here's the beauty of silicone compared to traditional lanyard materials: you can wash it however you like. All staff need to do is plunge it in soapy water, and they can remove all the dirt, grime, bacteria and viruses, leaving it spotlessly clean. Washing regular lanyards is much more involved. 

Silicone lanyards, therefore, are fast becoming an essential feature of hospital responses to infection threats. These state-of-the-art products protect both medical staff and patients and greatly simplify hygiene procedures. They're just as customisable as the old versions too, offering patient safeguarding and protection, allowing everyone to identify people on the ward quickly. No wonder they're so popular.