Thanksgiving Day is only a few weeks away.
What thoughts come to mind?
Perhaps family, friends, travel, turkey with all its trimmings, pumpkin pie, and shopping?
However, healthcare workers know something else is on the horizon! The time spent with family and friends increases the potential risk for transmission of colds, flu, and other potentially infectious diseases. Infection Prevention Week has just passed, drawing attention to methods that help prevent person-to-person transmission, including clean hands and clean environment. We cannot afford to lose that momentum going into the next few holiday months ahead.
As healthcare providers, we understand the importance of hand hygiene. But we need to ask ourselves, do we alwaysclean our hands after touching potentially contaminated surfaces—that patient or exam room door handle; prior to retrieving supplies in a clean storage supply room/cabinet/drawer; or after each glove use?
We must clean or sanitize our hands whenever they may have potentially been exposed to germs, and always before providing direct care to the patient. Remember: exam gloves can become contaminated by unclean hands while donning the gloves1. Therefore, hand hygiene should always be performed prior to gloving.
Patient procedures are often conducted at the bedside or within the ambulatory care exam room using portable devices or instruments, blood draw or procedure trays, and mobile equipment. Charting of notes and medication administration is typically documented on computers or handheld portable electronic devices at point-of-care. These devices should be cleaned and disinfected after each use. Always verify the appropriate disinfectant to use, especially for touch screens and handheld devices, which may not be compatible with certain chemicals. Staff members should have immediate access to the right product to clean or disinfect all potentially contaminated surfaces, especially for portable equipment that may be handled by one person to another, or transported from one area to another.
As healthcare workers, we may believe we have all that we need in our facility to prevent contact transmission; however, consider asking once again: Is my facility providing the right product at the right time for easy access (at point-of-care) to ensure compliance with the guidelines and to help prevent transmission of infection? Does my facility provide infection prevention education to patients, visitors, vendors, and delivery personnel?
The role (and value) of Education in preventing infections is proven 2. All waiting areas should include education (in multiple languages) to support the value of the “Flu vaccine”, hand hygiene and covering coughs (respiratory etiquette). For example, hand hygiene stations should be readily available in all areas of a healthcare facility. Consider providing masks, as necessary, to visitors and patients, placing tissue boxes throughout your waiting area to cover coughs, and accessible trash bins for easy disposal. From my experience - when in sight, tissues are used!
Can you add any suggestions that have worked well within your facility to help prevent transmission of infections throughout the upcoming holidays? It’s a great time to assess how you and your facility enable a safe and healthy season, beginning this month with “Thanksgiving Day” festivities –a time with family and friends…and Flu Season!
1 Guide to Infection Prevention for Outpatient Settings: Minimum Expectations for Safe Care
http://www.cdc.gov/HAI/prevent/prevent_pubs.html v 2.2 November, 2015.
2 Interim Guidance for the Use of Masks to Control Influenza Transmission Guidelines and Recommendations.