Infection Control Practices Protect Patients – And Nurses
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report on any given day, about one in 25 hospital patients has at least one healthcare-associated infection.
Many factors contribute to stopping the spread of disease:
Exemplary hand hygiene
“Handwashing is a simple task – and it’s the single best defense against the spread of disease – yet it’s often overlooked,” says Morgan. Not only should nurses wash their own hands often and correctly, but they have the power to remind patients and visitors to wash their hands as well.
Barriers to handwashing include being busy, lacking supplies (like soap), and simply forgetting. Having an institution-wide hand hygiene protocol, posters or reminders on handwashing, and plenty of alcohol-based gel and sinks, soap, and paper towels can help.
As more and more antibiotics are used in the medical and agricultural fields, the bacteria the drugs are supposed to protect against eventually get stronger and more resistant over time. “That's a bad thing, because we don't have too many other weapons in our arsenal,” says Morgan.
Nurses can practice antibiotic stewardship, which means they commit to ensuring the right antibiotic is given for the right reason at the right time. For instance, nurses are often the ones who draw blood or take cultures for a patient. The sooner we draw samples and get them to the lab, the sooner prescribers have the information they need to make educated treatment decisions and the less likely broad spectrum antibiotics will be continued unnecessarily.
“It's also the nurse’s role to educate other health care providers, family members, and patients about antibiotics. Nurses can act as advocates to minimize their misuse within the health care and the farming industries,” says Morgan. Some estimates indicate up to 80 percent of antibiotics being prescribed are for animal food production, and not always for disease management. Nurses can help educate the population at large to highlight food production practices that are contributing to multi-drug resistance.
To learn more, read the ANA and CDC’s White Paper, Redefining the Antibiotic Stewardship Team.
When people choose not to get vaccinated or not to get their children vaccinated, they can contribute to the spread of infection or an outbreak. Vaccines are vital. “This is a process that's been going on for more than 200 years and it’s credited with saving approximately 9 million lives a year worldwide. UNICEF estimates that an additional 16 million people could be saved if there were a full mobilization in using vaccines for disease preventable conditions,” says Morgan.
Read ANA’s Position Statement on Immunizations.
Appropriate policies and procedures
Every hospital and institution should have a protocol in place to prevent the spread of infection. Evidence-based stewardship practices aren’t just for nurses, but for every person that works in the healthcare setting, including environmental and housekeeping staff members. Morgan gives the example of a lung infection outbreak that occurred in a cardiovascular suite that was linked to an air circulating fan. “That was an environmental cause of an outbreak, which demonstrates the importance of communicating with every member of the hospital staff,” she says.
How to be an agent for change
Morgan stresses that nurses should stand their ground or call a timeout if they believe infection control policies and procedures are not being followed. If you have concerns about the sterile field breaking, or that a person may have an infectious disease and needs to be isolated, speak up. “You may have to take some heat because there's always pushback, but stand your ground,” Morgan says.
For more on this topic, visit the CDC's webpage on Infection Control for training/education resources, tools for healthcare settings, and more!
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ANA's position statement on immunizations. (2015, July 21).
Columbia University. (2013, October 14). A nurse finds a simple answer to a vexing question and a new career. Retrieved September 30, 2017.
Get smart for healthcare in hospitals and long-term care. (2017, February 23). Retrieved September 30, 2017.
Healthcare-associated infections. (2016, October 25). Retrieved September 30, 2017.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2006, October 11). Vaccines.gov basics. Retrieved September 30, 2017.
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