Even the most seasoned hospital staff can feel overwhelmed when attempting to wrap their minds around the vast complexity of an effective infection control strategy. Effective infection control is doable. It just requires meticulous planning. That’s why in 2017 the CDC provided guidance with a set of core practices to act as a foundation for any infection control program. Here is a brief overview of those points and what they mean.
1. Leadership Support
Responsibility for taking infection control seriously starts at the top. Hospital administrators should put a trained infection control specialist (or a team of them) in place to lead the project, with the authority and resources to roll out a program.
2. Education and Training
Everyone working in a hospital wants to minimize the chances of patients – and staff – getting ill. To do so, everyone needs to understand the steps to take. Training and education on best practices relevant to both specific job roles and general hospital work should be not only regularly conducted, but necessary as a precursor to doing the job.
3. Visitor Support
Visitor cooperation is essential to effective infection control. Informing and teaching hospital visitors the hows and whys of infection prevention – without giving lectures or making imposing demands – will get patients and their families on board.
4. Performance Monitoring and Feedback
Tracking data, benchmarking and iterating based on findings is critical to building and honing an infection control program.
5. Standard Precautions
Education is critical, but so is action. The next few items demonstrate standard baseline practices for what hospital staff can do to minimize the spread of easily-transmissible infections.
a. Hand Hygiene: In caregiver environments, infection prevention starts with the hands. The deployment of easily accessible handwashing stations and hand sanitizers for visitors and the correct use of hand protection products by every medical professional is non-negotiable.
b. Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection: Regular cleaning of surfaces and the immediate cleanup of fluid spills, all with the correct rated disinfectants, should never be overlooked.
c. Injection and Medication Safety: Administering medicine correctly is always the standard, but doing so in a way that does not unnecessarily expose patients to infection is likewise necessary, so aseptic technique should always be used.
d. Risk Assessment with Appropriate Use of Personal Protective Equipment: Knowing when and how to use the right PPE helps prevent staff from making infection-spreading mistakes.
e. Minimizing Potential Exposures: Staff should be trained not just to guard themselves with gear, but to take steps to avoid unnecessarily entering into situations where they could be exposed to a pathogen.
f. Reprocessing of Reusable Medical Equipment: Equipment that is reused needs to be sterilized to the appropriate standard.
6. Transmission-Based Precautions
Different types of infections demand different types of vigilance. Information about how a given condition spreads should be available to all who may interact with an infected patient to make sure proper steps are taken. Transmit information so you don’t transmit infection.
7. Cleaning Temporary Invasive Medical Devices
Devices like catheters are necessary parts of providing care, but offer direct inroads into the body that can carry bacteria and viruses. The correct disposal or sanitization of these devices cannot be overlooked.
8. Occupational health
Healthcare workers are on the front lines helping patients. Adhering to the accepted guidelines for vaccination, allowing sick time to keep infected workers out of contact with patients and keeping up with OSHA guidelines assure that the staff is functioning at their best and not unknowingly spreading infection.
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