Thanks to efforts at the national, organizational, and personal levels, rates of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) have fallen. But they do continue to plague hospitals, patient care providers, and patients themselves. According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of every 31 hospitalized patients has a HAI on any given day, resulting in an estimated cost between $96 and $147 billion every year.

Due to this, the CDC created a HAI Action Plan which incorporates goals for reducing HAIs by 2020. Among others, these goals include reducing catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs) by 25%, lowering hospital-onset MRSA infection by 50%, and curtailing the number of hospitalizations related to C. diff by 30%.

At Sunflower Home Health, we want to help you understand how can you, a patient, a nurse, or a family member can help achieve these national goals while also promoting infection prevention among your colleagues, patients, and even hospital visitors? Incorporating several best practices into your routine can help reduce rates of HAIs and keep patients healthier.

Wash Your Hands

It seems like a no-brainer, but proper hand washing is still one of the best methods for preventing the spread of dangerous pathogens throughout the hospital environment. Follow these steps for proper hand washing:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Many people miss their thumbs, fingertips, and the skin between fingers when washing their hands. Additionally, hands should be washed for at least 15 seconds to ensure you remove as many harmful germs as possible. And if soap and water aren’t available immediately, using alcohol-based hand sanitizers helps boost cleanliness.

Practice Environmental Awareness

It is very important that medical professionals focus on keeping a clean environment in their facility. Recent research indicates that even though rates of HAIs have improved, drug-resistant pathogens, particularly those contaminating the environment, continue to cause serious infections. Many pathogens, like C. diff, MRSA, and Pseudomonas can survive and thrive on environmental surfaces for up to five months, sometimes longer.

Because these germs can endure on surfaces for so long, it’s important to be aware of and take steps to prevent environmental contamination. Factors such as previous room occupancy, choice of materials used for bed linens, and lack of proper storage space for shared medical devices and equipment all contribute to increased rates of HAIs.

Nurses must advocate for evidence-based infection prevention practices in the hospital environment. These may include:

  • Making sure disinfecting products and hand sanitizers are in each patient room.
  • Designating storage space for shared medical equipment.
  • Promoting proper disposal of contaminated items.
  • Exploring new trends in decontamination, such as ultraviolet (UV) light or hydrogen peroxide vapor

Engage Visitors

When you’re sick or in the hospital, it’s common for friends and family to come visit and help take care of you. It is essential that nurses and family members engage patient visitors to promote hand hygiene and other infection prevention practices.

While visitors generally trust in the competency of healthcare staff to prevent infection as much as possible, they also typically believe that infection-causing pathogens are everywhere. As such, many visitors may feel like they can only do so much to help prevent infection, since it’s likely a patient will become infected anyway.

Sharing information about hand washing techniques, and encouraging visitors to leave coats, purses, and other personal items outside the patient room can help cut down on disease transmission. Also, educating family and friends about the spread of disease and the importance of staying home if they are sick helps reduce the likelihood of infection.

Be Committed

Infection prevention isn’t something you can do once and forget about. It takes constant effort and vigilance to recognize potential disease vectors and sources of possible contamination. Nurses can help all staff members stay committed with interventions designed to bring greater awareness to the problem. For example, visual methods, like pictures of different areas of the unit, can help staff more easily recognize potential sources of infection. Additionally, frequent and active discussions of infection prevention measures is essential for continued attention to this problem.

Sunflower Home Health is here to help if you have any questions about infection prevention. Please don’t hesitate to navigate to the contact us form on our website and reach out or give us a call at your local office.  Those numbers are listed below:

  • Charleston – (662) 647-0653
  • Clarksdale – (662) 624-4141
  • Cleveland – (662)756-4676
  • Greenwood – (662) 455-3535
  • Grenada – (662) 294-0726
  • Indianola – (662) 887-1518

At Sunflower Home Health, we truly believe that education and awareness are the keys to making the Mississippi Delta a healthy and safe place to live, something that we are committed to making a reality.

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