Infection Prevention in Health Care Settings
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes detailed guidelines designed to minimize the chances of health care-associated infections in patients and the spread of infection within the facility. Here are some of the things you can do to ensure that you and your patients are safe from infection.
Maintain hand hygiene standards
Practicing proper hand hygiene is one of the most basic yet vital infection-prevention steps you can take. Learn and utilize correct handwashing and handrubbing techniques with the recommended detergents.
Keep your immunizations up to date
The CDC recommends that all health care workers should get the following vaccinations:
- Influenza (flu)
- Hepatitis B
- Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
- Varicella (chickenpox)
- Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap)
Reduce your potential as an infection vector
Studies have shown that health care workers’ lab coats, long sleeves, neckties, watches, rings and shoes all harbor germs. Launder lab coats with hot water and bleach at least weekly, remove jewelry and wristwatches while on the job, switch to short sleeved scrubs if possible, and be sure to disinfect or replace any ID badges or other items you wear or carry if they come in contact with a patient. Wear gloves, protective clothing and masks as needed and always cover sneezes and coughs.
Follow all infection-prevention protocols
Different situations (e.g., surgery, wound care, infectious disease care) and specific types of infections require health care providers to take different steps to protect themselves and patients. Make sure to educate yourself about the necessary precautions related to each patient’s situation, including the proper:
- Personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Patient care equipment
- Patient care considerations related to testing, sharps handling, etc.
- Aerosol generating procedures (AGPs)
- Hand hygiene (including gloves)
- Safe injection practices
- Waste disposal practices
Better safe than sorry If you are not sure of the correct or current protocols for your patient’s situation, request clarification and further guidance from your supervisor or other health care officials as appropriate.