The safety and well-being of patients is always in the minds of healthcare professionals. However, staying up-to-date on the latest infection prevention strategies to keep our patients safe is important with the risk of infections within hospitals and healthcare facilities.
Infection prevention in healthcare is important for patients and healthcare workers who encounter potentially infectious materials and individuals daily. Let’s explore what you need to know about infection prevention in healthcare and how you can implement the latest strategies in your workplace.
Understanding the Basics of Infection Prevention in Healthcare
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
PPE refers to clothing and equipment designed to protect healthcare workers from infectious materials. This PPE includes gloves, masks, eye protection, gowns, and face shields. Healthcare workers should wear PPE when providing care to patients with infectious diseases and dispose of it appropriately afterward. They reduce the risk of transmitting infections to themselves, other staff, or patients by doing so.
Sterilization and Disinfection
Healthcare facilities should have a sterilization and disinfection program in place to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Sterilization is the process of killing all microorganisms on equipment and surfaces.
Disinfection, on the other hand, is the process of killing most, but not all, microorganisms on equipment and surfaces. Proper sterilization and disinfection of instruments and surfaces that encounter patients can prevent the spread of infection. Typically, in most hospitals, the processing department oversees the sterilization of equipment.
Isolation precautions are measures that healthcare workers take to separate patients with suspected or confirmed infectious diseases from other patients to prevent the spread of infection. These precautions include contact, droplet, and airborne precautions.
These precautions reduce the risk of transmission of pathogens to provide a safe environment for patients, healthcare workers, and visitors in the healthcare setting. Healthcare professionals should establish and follow standard precautions for all patients and be aware of additional precautions for patients in isolation.
The Role of Hand Hygiene in Reducing Cross-Contamination and Infections
Cross-contamination is a significant risk in the healthcare setting, and it is crucial to take all measures possible to prevent it. Hand hygiene is the most critical measure to reduce cross-contamination and infection risk. You reduce the possibility of introducing pathogenic agents in the healthcare environment to prevent the spread of infection by keeping your hands clean.
Medical professionals often contact different types of surfaces, including patients’ beds, medical equipment, and medications, among others. By properly practicing hand hygiene, you reduce the chances of contamination and infection spreading from these surfaces.
Hand Hygiene Techniques
Effective hand hygiene protects you and your patients from the potential transmission of microorganisms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that healthcare workers should follow specific hand hygiene techniques to ensure maximum protection. The techniques include using soap and water or sanitizer-based hand rubs, and healthcare workers must perform hand hygiene immediately before and after patient interaction.
Various types of hand hygiene products are available, such as alcohol-based hand rubs, hand soaps, antiseptic hand washes, and waterless hand sanitizers. While all these products are effective in killing microorganisms, many prefer alcohol-based hand rubs within the healthcare setting. They are fast-acting, have broad-spectrum antimicrobial properties, are effective against most viruses, and are less likely to irritate the skin.
The Importance of Hand Drying
Many medical professionals tend to overlook the importance of hand drying after proper hand hygiene. Damp hands are a perfect breeding ground for bacteria growth. It is essential to dry your hands thoroughly after washing or sanitizing them.
The most effective method is to dry your hands with a paper towel or allow your hands to air dry to lower the likelihood of infection transmission. Our hands can easily breed the contamination that may have lingered on them after washing or sanitizing if they don’t dry properly.
Understanding the Role of Environmental Cleaning in Infection Prevention
Environmental cleaning is the process of removing dirt, dust, and other contaminants from surfaces and objects in a clinical setting. Cleaning is an essential component of infection prevention as it helps to eliminate infectious agents that could otherwise lead to healthcare-associated infections (HAIs).
Regular cleaning removes visible debris, though it doesn’t necessarily kill pathogens. However, it does reduce the number of them present in the environment. In contrast, disinfection is a process that uses chemicals to kill pathogens, but it is not effective if workers don’t properly clean the surface first. However, cleaning and disinfection should always go hand-in-hand.
Identifying High-Touch Surfaces
In clinical settings, certain surfaces are more prone to becoming contaminated than others. These surfaces are known as “high-touch” surfaces and include doorknobs, bed rails, light switches, and medical equipment such as blood pressure cuffs and stethoscopes. Healthcare workers should clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces frequently, with extra attention paid to heavily used items. In addition, healthcare professionals should always wash their hands before and after touching high-touch surfaces to prevent the spread of infectious agents.
Best Practices for Environmental Cleaning
Healthcare professionals and medical students should follow best practices to ensure proper infection prevention when cleaning and disinfecting. These practices include using personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves and goggles, following the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning and disinfection products, and using the right concentration of cleaning products. It is important to remember that some pathogens, such as viruses and fungal spores, may be resistant to certain cleaning agents, so it’s always essential to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use a disinfectant that is effective against the pathogen in question.
Implementing a Cleaning and Disinfection Plan
Healthcare facilities should implement a cleaning and disinfection plan that outlines the frequency of cleaning tasks to determine which surfaces need cleaning, which cleaning products to use and to ensure that environmental cleaning is effective.
The plan should also include guidelines for monitoring and auditing cleaning procedures and training for healthcare professionals and medical students on proper cleaning practices. By following a well-thought-out cleaning plan, healthcare facilities can reduce the risk of HAIs and provide a safer environment for patients and healthcare workers.
As mentioned, hand hygiene plays a vital role in the fight against infection, but doctors, surgeons, and other medical professionals can’t rely on everyday equipment to ensure cleanliness. Future Health Concepts sells a range of surgical scrub sinks
with nonporous materials and minimal touch surfaces so you and your staff can easily meet the strict standards of hand hygiene.