With International Infection Prevention Week upon us, take the time this week to reassess your own health practices and to share advocacy tips with your patients.

Why is infection control so important in health care settings? Controlling the spread of infection cuts down on unnecessary illness and infection in patients, family members, nurses, and physicians. No one wants to acquire or have to treat an infection that could have been prevented.

According to the National and State Healthcare Associated Infections Progress Report that was released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) earlier this year, there’s good news. Infections are down in many areas, but that doesn’t mean there’s no problem with infection control. Considering the devastating effects one infection can have on a person’s life, eliminating all chances of spreading infection is a top priority for nurses.

Washing your hands so frequently all day long becomes so rote and so routine that it’s easy to remember to do it when you are having a routine day. But a nurse’s day is never routine, so being aware of always washing your hands before touching a patient, equipment, or food is crucial.

According to the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), even protective equipment like gloves and masks won’t stop the spread of germs if they are not handled correctly before and after use and used correctly during wear. Even removing protective equipment needs to be done with care and within guidelines to prevent contamination.

And, of course, nurses need to protect not only their patients but also themselves from infection. The APIC recommends keeping your vaccinations up to date and to review and carefully follow guidelines for handling sharp instruments, needles, and syringes. Being vigilant with these implements can prevent a terrifying, and potentially health threatening, needle stick or laceration.

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While every nurse encounters patients who are well versed in infection control, it helps to have open conversations with them to remind them to be vigilant with their own care. Encourage them to make sure hospital staff are following proper procedures. When they are leaving the hospital, emphasize the importance of a clean environment at home while they recover and the importance of insisting that caregivers know and follow guidelines for clean hands and sterile equipment.

In your off-work hours, do your best to get rest, good nutrition, and exercise as all will help boost your immune system and keep you healthy in an environment where lots of germs are present. The APIC also recommends washing your work clothes separate from any other clothes and using hot water and a hot dryer to kill any lingering germs and bacteria.

A few small but consistent habits can help stop spread infection incidents.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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