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The Use of the Buddy System in Medical Waste Disposal

Jan 9, 2015


If you are running a medical facility that generates hazardous waste, you are likely familiar with the term “buddy system.” Maybe you are using it in your hospital or research center, but are you using it effectively? Let’s take a look at what the buddy system actually is and how you can utilize it when it comes to medical waste disposal.

What is the Buddy System?

On a basic level, the buddy system means teamwork. Employees are organized into groups (often teams of two) to assist and oversee each other in completion of certain tasks. These tasks could be anything from delivering medicine to a contagious patient to disposal of blood-soaked bandages. This is not the same as having a supervisor watch over every move of an employee. It’s called a buddy system to imply that the teammates are equal in status (buddies) and provide equal amount of feedback to each other.

The benefits of the buddy system are evident:

  • People feel more accountable when observed by another person.
  • There is less room for a mistake when there is someone to double-check.
  • Both “buddies” can receive immediate assistance from each other in case of an emergency.

There is one big drawback, however: human resources. While not all occupations in the medical field need the buddy system, even those that do often don’t receive the necessary resources. Assigning two nurses for a single simple task is a luxury to most healthcare institutions. And even when the buddy system protocol is in place, many employees forgo it due to hectic schedules and shortage of staff. However, there are a few applications where the buddy system should be implemented regardless of the human resources situation.

What is the Buddy System For?

The buddy system is used in different industries, and it has several applications in healthcare that justify this seemingly redundant practice.

For Dealing with Highly Infectious Substances

You might have heard the term buddy system come up on the news during the 2014 US Ebola scare. In fact, CDC recommends medical staff to use the buddy system when caring for Ebola patients. When it comes to containing a highly infectious substance, the second pair of eyes helps ensure all the safety protocols were followed correctly. An observer is especially useful during the application and removal of the personal protective equipment, which is a lengthy and cumbersome procedure. Removal and proper disposal of contaminated PPE is crucial to the containment of the disease.

For Waste Disposal Training

As a Maryland medical waste disposal company, we have clients with rather robust waste disposal protocols. They follow all the local and federal guidelines while striving to reduce the amount of medical waste they generate. In order to achieve this, all employees need to be on the same page, including the newcomers. And what’s a better way to train someone on your waste disposal practices than placing them in a team with an experienced buddy? This is a form of job shadowing that can be very effective for getting familiar with your facility’s policies and procedures.

For Accountability

We hope your facility doesn’t have this problem, but there have been cases of drug-seeking nurses targeting medical waste. They would retrieve discarded leftover medications from the waste containers and collect them for either personal use or resale. If you suspect this could be happening in your hospital, or you just want to make sure everyone follows the rules, you could temporarily implement the buddy system for medical waste disposal.

Did you get any ideas on how to use the buddy system in your facility? While we can’t help you implement it, you can always rely on BWS for what we know best—medical waste disposal. Get in touch if you have any questions about our services.

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