4 Tips for Communicating & Enforcing Laser Therapy Safety Protocol
Innovations in technology have allowed us to develop all sorts of medical devices that have revolutionized medicine. However, lots of these devices, when operated incorrectly, can cause serious harm to patients and the staff using them. While some might cringe back at the word, “protocol,” understanding and following safety protocol is important to protect ourselves, our patients, and provide the best outcomes for their treatment.
Keep reading to learn more about communication and enforcing safety protocol for laser therapy devices at your practice.
Importance of Safety Protocol
Safety protocol is extremely important for all medical devices. When used incorrectly, many devices can be harmful to patients and the staff responsible for the procedure. Laser devices pose two potential risks when used improperly:
- Damage to the eyes when viewed directly or indirectly
- Burns to the skin when the device is held too close to the skin for too long or the power of the beam is too high
Laser devices that are listed as class II or above pose some risk to our eyes, including small laser pointers. When it comes to laser therapy systems, even viewing the beam indirectly can cause eye damage. Additionally, class IV laser therapy systems do have the potential to cause burns when used incorrectly.
Following safety protocol is necessary to prevent harming patients and staff and provide the best experience possible for each patient. There is no level of experience with a device that ever makes breaking safety protocol okay.
Make Safety a Priority During Training
Comprehensive training with a laser therapy system is important for establishing safe practices. One goal of training is to form good habits from the beginning. To do this, position safety protocol as part of the procedure. For example, anyone in the room while a laser is in operation must wear protective glasses. Instead of asking staff to just remember they need to wear glasses, establish the point in the order of operations where they put glasses on.
Training should also include what to do in an emergency. Make sure each person who will be operating the device knows what those situations are and how to handle them. For example, if a patient’s glasses were to be accidentally removed while the laser beam is active, the technician should immediately activate the safety interlock to turn the laser down below maximum permissible exposure (MPE) levels.
Different models of lasers will have different safety interlocks. Aspen Laser systems have an interlock that is attached to the handpiece and is easy to activate while holding the handpiece. Safety interlocks may be switches or foot pedals on other medical devices. In training, make sure each technician is shown the interlock and can demonstrate how to use it.
Focus on Health and Safety, Not Rules
No one likes big laundry lists of rules. But we all want to feel safe when we work at or come to a medical professional’s office. Medical and wellness staff are proponents of health. Position safety protocol as part of protecting the health of patients and staff instead of using it as a book of rules.
Try phrasing protocol like this: “For the health and safety of our patients and staff, protective eyewear must be worn at all times while the laser therapy system is in operation.”
Utilize Signage & Labels
All Aspen Laser therapy systems come with a sign to place outside the door of an exam room to inform others that a laser is in operation and not to open the door. This sign is absolutely necessary to avoid a staff member or patient from accidentally opening the door and exposing their eyes to the beam. If you plan to designate specific rooms to laser therapy services, this sign can be permanently fixed on the door. If you plan to travel the device from room to room, attaching velcro strips to the sign and on each door ensure the sign is front and center and doesn’t fall.
Other signage may also be helpful. A small sign in a patient room or a note on the laser device to remind the technician to put on protective eyewear can be a good visual reminder. You might also attach a short checklist to the laser device, either in the shelf of the travel cart or the carrying case of the device, that staff needs to go over before turning the laser on. Phrasing of the procedures should utilize health-focused language as we mentioned above.
Designate a Safety Protocol Person
For a small practice, you can designate someone on your staff to be the safety protocol person. For a larger practice, you likely already have or will want to hire a risk management officer or safety manager. This person is responsible for knowing safety protocol and will be able to train staff, answer questions, and ensure protocol is accurate and followed by all staff.
Aspen Laser systems come with a User Training Manual and User Protocol Manual. This information should be easily accessible by all staff, but a designated safety protocol person will know these manuals well and be responsible for communicating any updates to this information.
The success of laser therapy at any practice starts with training. At Aspen Laser, we offer a variety of laser therapy training options to suit the needs of your practice, from our printed user manuals to online video and video call sessions to regional workshops. Learn more about our training offerings through the link below.