Every day at my hospital, the floor I work on has at least one person on contact isolation. The most frequent hospital acquired infections I see are MRSA and C. difficile or C-Diff. And infections like these are proving deadly. It’s estimated over 200 people die every day in the United States as a result of hospital infections. How can we eliminate hospital acquired infections? Start with patient and staff education.
Staff education: First line of defense
Hospital patients are vulnerable. They rely on health care workers like us to care for them and restore them to optimal health. And they trust us with this task. If we want to eliminate hospital acquired infections, we have to educate ourselves and each other.
-Do not enter or leave a patient’s room without washing your hands. The CDC calls handwashing our best defense against infection.
-Suit up properly. Sometimes all we need to do is wear exam gloves when treating a patient. But airborne diseases like tuberculosis require a mask. Extended contact with bodily fluids may require a disposable gown in addition to gloves.
-Watch for signs of infection. Does your patient have a fever? Is there foul smelling drainage coming from his surgical site? Is their urine cloudy? If you see something that doesn’t look right, call your patient’s attending doctor so proper testing can be ordered.
-Look at your patient’s chart. Does he have a history of MRSA or some other hospital acquired infection? Alert his attending doctor and inquire about possible isolation precautions.
-Book beds with care. If you have an immune compromised patient, do not give him a roommate who has an active infection.
Patient education: It’s our job to teach them
Patient teaching is one of the many tasks we nurses have. When we share our health care knowledge, we are helping to eliminate hospital acquired infections.
-Teach effective handwashing: 15-20 seconds of vigorous rubbing with soap and water.
-Explain isolation precautions. Don’t just close the door and tell your patient to stay in his room. Make sure other patients know not to enter isolation rooms.
-Encourage communication. Tell your patient to report any new signs and symptoms. When taking a health history, be open, friendly, and honest. A patient is more likely to speak up when he feels he has a nurse who listens.
-Educate visitors. Tell them to stay home if they have a fever. Encourage handwashing. Discourage them from bringing in and eating food in isolation rooms. If appropriate, ask them to wear protective clothing in isolation rooms.