During this year’s International Infection Prevention Week (IIPW), it helps to shed light on how every small effort can make a big difference. During a continuing pandemic and an impending flu season, infection control is critically important to protect patients, healthcare workers, and the community at large.
Nurses’ days are guided by infection control processes and the last year and a half has seen more controls and preventive measure implemented. Not only wearing PPE, but putting it on and removing it correctly are essential to proper infection control.
International Infection Prevention Week began 35 years ago and this year’s theme is “Make Your Intention Infection Prevention.” According to IIPW, the organization intends to highlight the science of infection prevention during this year’s awareness week to help the general community understand how infections happen and how they can be prevented.
As nurses, interactions with patients are excellent times to remind them of infection control practices, and infection control in your workplace is critically important.
Talk with your patients
More people are aware of vaccination, mask wearing, hand washing, keeping a social distance, and other infection prevention measures that have become so common and essential in helping to control COVID-19. Reminding patients how these things are important to future infection prevention is helpful. Bring up antibiotic resistance and explain the caution around taking antibiotics for conditions where they aren’t helpful and can actually contribute to antibiotic resistance.
Remind them to get help
Let patients know they should seek medical care when things just don’t seem right. Former President Bill Clinton’s recent infection landed him in the hospital, and it’s reported that he felt off–just especially extra tired. Patients don’t always realize that something like a urinary tract infection can lead to a much larger and potentially life-threatening infection. Educating them that infection comes in many forms will help them recognize trouble. As a nurse, it’s also a good tips to remember. You’re around so many people and it’s worth being aware of when something seems off.
Spread awareness at work
Healthcare workplaces have seen a surge in infection prevention measures since COVID emerged. Although it might seem like second nature, it is always a good idea to keep infection prevention at the center of workplace issues. Depending on the patient population you work with, infection prevention could also include needle safety for everything from injections to blood draws to IV insertion. Anything involving bodily fluids, wound care for example are also potential infection spreading tasks. Find out how your workplace is focused on keeping workers safe.
There’s more to stopping the spread of germs than simply washing your hands. Although hand washing is extremely important, nurses can also adopt other practices to help stop infections from spreading from person to person (and to avoid becoming a patient themselves). They are also a good resource for patients who can learn good infection control methods and also learn about other prevention methods including vaccinations.
Wash Your Hands
Nurses’ hands require near constant cleaning with soap and water or antibacterial gel. Because nurses touch everything from patients’ bodily fluids to medical devices to food, having clean hands is the top way of keeping infections in check. Nurses know this, but it’s also important for them to share this information with their patients and families. Whether it’s visitors to the nursery or family members who are taking care of wounds or stomach infections at home, this is one activity that cannot be stressed enough.
Protect Clean Surfaces
Everything a nurse touches has the potential to spread germs or infectious illness. Being mindful of the surfaces you touch, whether you are wearing gloves or not, helps you stay healthy and protects your patients.
Staying up-to-date on your own vaccinations helps protect you from preventable diseases and is a key to infection prevention. A flu shot every year, required by some healthcare organizations, is protective as are routine vaccinations to prevent tetanus or pneumonia (if you’re eligible). With the recent explosion of measles cases across the country, you can also help educate your patients on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines to keep serious and potentially deadly diseases out of their own homes and communities.
Know Proper Procedures and Protocol
Some nurses are exposed to extremely contagious and dangerous infectious diseases. Outbreaks of Ebola have caused infectious in the healthcare workers helping patients, for example. Knowing your organizations protocol for handling such cases or for handling outbreaks is essential. If you aren’t sure about the current protocol and process, keep asking until you find out or until a protocol is established. Flu outbreaks are common in the wintertime, but in our increasingly global world, outbreaks of other diseases that have primarily been in other countries can easily jump to any area. Nurses have to be ready to handle whatever might evolve.
As a nurse, infection control is a big part of your responsibility to your patients, but it’s also a responsibility to yourself. Remaining as healthy as possible lets you care for and protect your patients.
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