Infection control is essential in healthcare facilities of all kinds. Waging a war on bugs is necessary, but can be difficult in certain situations and at certain times of the year. Cold and flu season can wreak havoc on classrooms, make it difficult to go to work, and render the afflicted individual feeling pretty horrible. But, when those exposed are already at their most vulnerable, the impact can be quite devastating.
The impact of the flu alone on those in long-term care and nursing facilities can result in quarantine, hospitalizations, and even death among residents. Pediatric facilities and oncology departments can also be hit hard by the flu, putting those already at their most vulnerable in dire situations.
When patients are grouped together, with suppressed immune systems, in close quarters, some already afflicted by community acquired infections, you have the perfect storm for a devastating epidemic. The need for healthcare facilities to maintain infection control during these times is highest priority. But how? and what is the method-or combination of methods-that really works?
Additionally, what of the viral infections specific to healthcare facilities? Staph, C-Diff, and surgical infections, for example, while not exactly commonplace, are a threat in any healthcare environment. How can we stop the spread of hospital-related infections among patients?
On the Right Track
The threat of healthcare associated infections, or, HAI, seems to have been somewhat mitigated in the last 3 years, according to reports out of the CDC. That’s good news. While not completely eradicated, incidences have gone down.
C-Diff is down by 8%
MRSA has declined by 13%
Surgical site infections dropped by 17%
Central Line infections are down by a whopping 50%
So as you see, progress is being made, but we still have a long, long way to go in infection control. Every day in the United States nearly one patient in 25 acquires at least one infection during there stay in a hospital or care facility. This puts a huge part of the population at risk when they seek necessary care for their unrelated illness or injury. The healthcare community needs to prevent those patients who depend on us to get well from becoming even sicker by improving infection control.
Form an Army
Research has determined the best way to wage a war on the “bugs” that threaten our facilities is by bringing together members of multidisciplinary care teams and making them aware of these infections. Working together, these staff members can can take steps to prevent the spread of HAI and reduce infection rates by up to 70%. That protects a lot of patients!
Don’t neglect to include all members of the healthcare team, as well as administrative personnel, department staff, environmental services, visitors, volunteers, and the patients themselves. The entire community needs to be involved in order to effectively promote infection control. Everyone plays a role.
Make the infection and its detriment to patients a real story. Recount tales of patients who’ve been forced to endue the results of a MRSA infection after a simple surgical procedure. Let the members of the facility’s community be made aware of the very scary and dangerous outcome of preventable HAI. For the elderly, infants, or those with already-weakened immune systems, like oncology patients, it isn’t unheard of for these HAI to result in death, so prevention should never be taken lightly.
Educate and Create a Zero Tolerance “Law”
It’s never been more vital for hospital employees to follow the rules of hygiene and sterile techniques. The need for properly cleaned surfaces in patient care areas, and patient rooms, must be stressed to the environmental services staff. Visitors must be made aware, and the patients need to practice appropriate hygiene post-surgery. Failure to do so should result in strong reprimands for facility staff as well as visitors.
Of course, you cannot expect everyone to abide by the rules if they aren’t educated about infection control procedures. Place instructions on hand hygiene throughout the healthcare facility. Go over proper staff hygiene and sterile techniques again and again. Take the time to review to ensure your entire staff understands hospital or healthcare facility protocol.
Take a Stand
The war on “bugs” begins with you. Make infections known to staff and community. Pressure those around you to practice preventing the spread of these deadly infections through hygiene and sterile techniques. Whether it’s the flu, a stomach bug, or a specific HAI, infection control must be practiced on a regular basis to reduce the risk contracting one or more of these deadly “bugs”.