Patients who are under medical care are more susceptible to infections. Infections related to medical care usually occur while staying in medical establishments such as hospitals, dialysis centers, outpatient clinics, and long-term care facilities. What’s more, these infections are often associated with devices like ventilators and catheters that are utilized in various medical procedures.
Fortunately, infections can be prevented. To ensure the safety of everybody in the facility, here’s a list of ways to prevent the spread of infections during medical care:
1. Practice Proper Hand Hygiene
Hand hygiene is the practice of killing or getting rid of germs on the hands to stop them from spreading to other people and even transferring to surfaces. One of the most important things to do in order to avoid infections not only in medical settings but in other places as well is to keep one’s hands clean.
To practice proper hand hygiene, it’s advisable to use alcohol-based sanitizers or wash with water and soap. If gloves are used, they must be changed frequently, and every time you remove them, make sure to observe proper hand hygiene. Keep in mind that dirty gloves can also spread germs. With that said, if possible, don’t wear the same gloves for handing more than one patient or resident.
You should wash your hands for at least 30 seconds before handling food if your hands have come into contact with bodily fluids or if you’ve just come from the comfort room. Do the same thing before and after assisting a patient with perineal care or toileting.
Wearing rings during your shift at the hospital should be avoided since they trap germs and tend to get caught on equipment and clothing. But if you want to wear one, particularly your wedding ring, you can do it but make sure to clean the ring together with your hands thoroughly.
2. Disinfect And Clean The Environment
Usually, cleaning denotes removing dirt and soil physically. Sanitizing and disinfecting, on the other hand, refer to killing or eliminating germs causing diseases. Commonly, surfaces in the room and even medical devices and equipment can harbor such germs.
To prevent the spread of infections, everything from equipment to surfaces must be disinfected and cleaned routinely. Such tasks should also be done between each patient or resident use. Clean and at the same time disinfect high-touch surfaces and areas like tables, doorknobs, medical carts, counters, call lights, phones, and bed rails.
Remember: when cleaning, take into account the contact period for the products. Contact time refers to how long a disinfectant needs to stay on the surface to be effective.
3. Use Aseptic Technique
Aseptic technique, if you’re not familiar with this term, is a standard practice in health care that can help prevent the transmission of germs or bacteria from open wounds and other prone areas to the body of a patient. This technique ranges from simple practices like using alcohol in sterilizing the skin to complete surgical aseptic methods involving the use of sterile gowns, masks, and gloves.
Health care experts use the aseptic technique in outpatient care clinics, surgery rooms, hospitals, and other health care environments. Furthermore, professionals usually turn to aseptic techniques when dressing burns or surgical wounds, performing a surgical procedure, suturing wounds, performing biopsies, administering injections, and using certain tools to perform vaginal examinations.
Of course, medical professionals have to be trained in aseptic techniques. But anyone can undergo aseptic techniques training, especially if they need to apply such practices at home. However, those who perform aseptic techniques outside medical facilities must have sterile gloves and a special dressing kit on hand.
4. Wear Personal Protective Equipment
Personal protective equipment (PPE) offers protection from direct contact with body fluids, blood, and other potentially infectious elements and substances containing germs that may cause infections. PPE like masks, gowns, gloves, and eye protection like goggles can be used by medical staff and residents alike.
If possible, use PPE only once and then throw it away. Also, don’t use the same PPE for caring for more than one patient, Once the mask touches the face, make sure to change it afterward to ensure safety. And as mentioned, before and after wearing gloves, perform hand hygiene.
5. Transfer An Infected Patient To A Separate Or Private Room
When a patient is infected with bacteria or germs that may spread to other people, it’s necessary to transfer them or their roommates to another room to reduce the possibility of anyone else catching the germs. The goal here is to place patients in a room with the lowest risk of infection-spreading bacteria or germs. One of the best ways to do this is to provide each of them with a private room.
But if there are no available private rooms, consider putting residents together if they’re dealing with the same infection. Should only one person be infected and there’s a dire lack of space in the hospital, as a last resort, you can consider placing that patient in the same area with patients who are incredibly low risk.
6. Follow Safe Injection Practices
Syringes, needles, lancets, and other sharp tools used for getting blood and performing injections should be used in a way that would reduce the risk of needlestick injuries. This is possible with a needle guard as well as an automatic retraction device or non-removable needles with a fixed-dose.
Unsafe injection practices may result in infections or, worse, disease outbreaks. Here are some of the things that should never be done in a medical facility:
- Using dirty adaptable intravenous (IV) fluids and vials
- Reusing needles and syringes that are designed to be used once
- Cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting equipment incorrectly
- Sharing an insulin pen between patients
- Sharing blood glucose meters
By avoiding these harmful practices, infections are less likely to occur or spread out during medical care.
7. Observe Proper Respiratory Etiquette And Hygiene
Make sure to keep an eye on sneezing and coughing patients, medical staff, family members, and visitors. When sneezing or coughing, always cover the nose and mouth with a tissue or do so in the elbow and immediately perform hand hygiene afterward.
If the infected patients have to leave their rooms, see to it that they’re wearing masks. To observe proper respiratory etiquette and hygiene, the facility should post signs urging people to wear masks. These will educate not only the patients but also the visitors on sneezing and coughing safely.
Placing hand sanitizers or alcohol at entrances is also recommended, especially now that the world is dealing with pandemic stress.
8. Patients Should Not Be Allowed To Walk Barefoot
When ill, the majority of people don’t want to wear shoes or any sort of footwear since they’re more comfortable that way. But to prevent the spread of infections, patients must be encouraged to wear non-slip socks or slippers when walking around the hospital or even in their own rooms. While this may sound a bit extreme, doctors, nurses, and other people entering a patient’s room may carry pathogens or germs in the room from other places and patient rooms.
9. Keep Linens Clean And Sanitized
Linens in medical facilities should be cleaned and sanitized in the laundry. But even if they’re already sanitized, linens shouldn’t be left on the beds of patients for a long period. If possible, linens must be changed on a daily basis or whenever there’s visible dirt or stains on them. In addition, linens that accidentally fall on the floor should be sent back to the laundry for cleaning right away.
Treat dirty linens as potentially infectious. They should be processed in a way that won’t simply kill the germs but also won’t allow germs and bacteria to spread from soiled to clean linens. When it comes to methods used in killing germs in laundry, chemical disinfection and heat are common options. Also, make sure not to place linens in a red biohazard bag unless they’re soaked with blood and being discarded in biohazard bins.
When dealing with linens, make sure to keep these important things in mind:
- Ensure that there are sufficient linen bags close to points of care.
- Transport clean linens in a covered and clean cart.
- Keep dirty linens separate from clean ones.
- Keep dirty linens away from your clothes when you’re carrying and changing.
- Make sure that dirty linens are handled correctly from the moment they’re collected to the time they’re washed in the laundry.
Though not all kinds of infections are avoidable, it’s the duty of everyone, especially health care facilities or providers, to practice ethics of care to prevent medical care-associated infections.
Some patient risk factors like underlying disease, the severity of illness, advanced age, and immune conditions aren’t adaptable and directly contribute to the risk of infection of patients. Depending on the vulnerability of a patient, they can develop an infection because of the emergence of their personal endogenous organisms and cross-contamination in the medical care setting. Nevertheless, taking extra precautions can go a long way in steering clear of infections and minimizing their spread should they already be present.